Registered Americans fear assault, robbery, even murder

By Matt Clarke . . . As repeatedly reported in Prison Legal News, for over a decade registered sex offenders have been targeted by vigilantes and assaulted, robbed and murdered due to their past crimes. And as noted in this issue’s cover story, that is part of the dark side of sex offender registries, which allow public access to offenders’ residential addresses and other personal information. Such information not only endangers registered sex offenders but also those who live with them and, in at least one case in Dallas, Texas, an innocent victim. That Dallas man, who was beaten with a baseball bat, had simply moved into an apartment recently vacated by a sex offender.

PLN believes these incidents are more widespread and occur with greater frequency than reported in the mainstream media. [See, e.g.: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.49; June 2015, p.63; Feb. 2013, p.50; April 2007, p.18].

In one of the earliest cases of registry vigilantism, two registered sex offenders who were living in the same home in Bellingham, Washington were murdered in 2005 by a man who gained access to their residence by claiming to be an FBI agent investigating threats made against sex offenders. Hank Eisses, 49, and Victor Vasquez, 68, were gunned down by Michael Anthony Mullen, who later confessed to the crime. Mullen was convicted and sentenced to 44 years; he died in prison.

Stephen A. Marshall, 20, a Canadian citizen, used information from online registries to locate two sex offenders in Maine, killing them in separate incidents in April 2006. William Elliot, 24, and Joseph Gray, 57, were shot to death. Marshall killed himself as police closed in while he was on a bus. Following the murders, Maine officials stated they did not intend to make any changes to the state’s sex offender registry.

In August 2011, John Joseph Huffmaster, 29, of Hazelwood, Missouri, was charged with assaulting his 74-year-old neighbor with a hammer because the neighbor was on a sex offender registry. Huffmaster, who entered the victim’s home by asking for a cup of sugar, called police after the attack to claim he was “doing God’s work.” Police found the victim, semi-conscious and bleeding, with multiple skull and facial fractures.

Patrick Drum was sentenced to life in prison in September 2012 for killing two registered sex offenders in Washington state. His victims were Gary Lee Blanton, 28, and Jerry Wayne Ray, 57, who were fatally shot in June 2012. Drum reportedly admitted that he was targeting sex offenders and planned to continue killing them until he was caught.

On July 21, 2013, Jeremy and Christine Moody, husband and wife, murdered Charles “Butch” Parker, 59, and Gretchen Parker, 51, in South Carolina. Charles was a registered sex offender; both he and Gretchen had been shot and stabbed multiple times. The Moodys were identified from the Parkers’ home surveillance video. The video recorded Jeremy Moody telling Charles, “I’m not here to rob you. I’m here to kill you because you’re a child molester.”

Christine Moody told TV reporters that Charles Parker was a “pedophile” and a “demon.” Jeremy Moody confessed to deputies that he had killed Charles because he was a registered sex offender, and murdered Gretchen because she lived with him. He admitted to targeting other registered sex offenders and said he would have killed another on his “hit list” a few days later had he not been arrested. The Moodys pleaded guilty and received consecutive life sentences.

David Ray Mills, 36, his l6-year-old daughter and Andre Edwin Dickerson, 20, were charged in a January 2013 attack on Miguel Esteban Cruz, 21, whom the daughter accused of raping her. They allegedly lured Cruz to a park in Temecula, California, where Dickerson beat him with a baseball bat while the others watched. Cruz suffered skull fractures, broken bones, missing teeth and a lung injury. The three assailants were charged with attempted murder and mayhem, and held on $1 million bail each. Cruz had been charged with sodomy with a minor; he allegedly had sex with the girl after she passed out drunk on his couch.

In July 2015, Nebraska registered sex offender Phillip McDaniel lost his appeal seeking workers compensation for an attack that had occurred two years earlier at the Western Sugar Cooperative, when a co-worker assaulted him with a brass hammer while calling him a “chimo” – slang for “child molester.”

The co-worker, Jason Bates, had become enraged after discovering that McDaniel was a registered sex offender. McDaniel suffered injuries to his nose, clavicle and left shoulder. He applied for workers compensation but was denied; after he appealed, the Nebraska Court of Appeals upheld the denial, finding that the attack was due to personal reasons even if the only relationship between the two was as co-workers. See: McDaniel v. Western Sugar Coop., 23 Neb. App. 35, 867 N.W.2d 302 (Neb. Ct. App. 2015).

On June 25, 2016, Anchorage, Alaska police arrested Jason Vukovich, 41, for assaulting three registered sex offenders. The first victim, Charles Albee, told police a man with “shoulder-length hair and a black leather jacket” broke into his apartment, assaulted him and robbed him. The man knew his name and told him he was there because Albee was on the registry. He also showed Albee a notebook with a list of additional potential victims.

Two days later, a man matching the same description and carrying a hammer attacked registered sex offender Andres Barbosa. Barbosa said two women accompanied the man, who said he was there because of Barbosa’s “past crimes.”

Then on June 29, 2016, Wesley Demarest and Stanley Brown reported a man had broken into their home and attacked Demarest with a hammer, severely injuring him.

Vukovich was arrested after a traffic stop near the last crime scene. Police discovered a notebook with other victims’ names and items stolen from their homes in his car; he was charged with multiple felonies and faces up to 35 years in prison.

The details of the assault on Demarest are chilling. At one o’clock in the morning, Brown awakened to the sound of glass shattering in the entryway of his home. He ran to Demarest’s room to tell him someone was breaking in, but Vukovich was right behind him. Vukovich told Demarest to confirm his name and that he was a registered sex offender – for a crime for which he had served nine months, ten years earlier.

“He told me to lay down on my bed and I said ‘no.’ He said ‘get on your knees’ and I said ‘no.’ He said, ‘I am an avenging angel, I’m going to mete out justice for the people you hurt,’” Demarest stated.

Then Vukovich hit him in the head with the hammer four or five times before Demarest lost consciousness. Vukovich fled and Brown called 911. Weeks later, Demarest was still recovering from a fractured skull and unable to return to work.

Multiple studies have shown registries to be ineffective at reducing sex offender recidivism, which is extremely low – in fact only murderers have lower recidivism rates. Instead registries often serve a more sinister purpose, including as vehicles for public vengeance.

Please read the rest of this article about vigilantism in Prison Legal News.

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17 Thoughts to “Registered Americans fear assault, robbery, even murder”

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  1. T

    This why notifications are doing more harm than good, and they have to be stopped.

  2. Accessories to the crime

    This is why I believe the state and federal governments should be held complicit as an accessory to these crimes since it is their laws enabling this behavior. I don’t know if this is possible, but it is a direct, as the evidence points to here, relation to the registry being public.

  3. Jim

    As sex offender laws currently stand, they invite and encourage violence against rso’s. It is unthinkable that those writing, passing, and enforcing these laws consider the violence against registered citizens an acceptable consequence. All of us must hope for relief from the courts. The majority of politicians could care less. Having blood on their hands is better than the risk of losing votes. These are, in many ways, very sad days for our nation.

    1. Two wrongs don't make it right

      Two wrongs, e.g. a public registry and a vigilante using it for their purposes, don’t make it right, e.g. accosting a registered person. This is what the courts and politicians have failed to see or don’t care about when they do see it.

      Would love to see the court justices be told by an atty during oral arguments or in a brief that the court registry decisions have killed registered people, people with families too, and what their reactions would be. Would the justices understand that and change things or just say it was a consequence of the registered person’s actions, much like the registry is a consequence and not a punishment; therefore, oh well? If the latter, would that be like the court giving a license to kill, hurt, or maim with a lassie faire attitude despite the fine print saying you cannot use the registry for negative things like vigilantism?

      Maybe an editorial is a better way to address that so the atty does not antagonize the court during the hearing. Of course, if it is in the court record…

      Actions, reactions, consequences….

  4. Hyping an issue from either side is not a smart strategy. But it is the cheap and easy route

    Fear-mongering got us into this mess, it’s stupid to use it to try and get us out of it.

    Onslaught? I don’t think so.

    1. rwvnral

      Thank you for the comment, Mary. I have softened the heading somewhat so as to address this concern. The piece by Matt Clarke is republished from this month’s edition of Prison Legal News which ran it under the heading: “Vigilantes Assault, Rob and Murder Registered Sex Offenders.”

      1. I appreciate the title correction and the reply Robin.
        I did read Matt Clarke’s piece.
        As advocates of Registry reform we all need to be cognizant of how we argue for reform and integrity should be #1 priority.
        Thanks and good luck with everything ya’ll are working on!

    2. Jim

      Certainly fear-mongering is not a means to obtain favorable actions, nor is fear itself a healthy state of mind for those who must endure the inevitable consequences of being on a sex offender registry. While the percentage of sex offenders actually encountering violence may be small, the potential for such is an ever present reality. To publish commentary on the threat against registered citizens and their families isn’t exactly fear mongering, as both offenders and the public ought to be made aware that these conditions exist. Nevertheless, it is the voice of reason, patience, and perseverance that will gain an ear in the courts of law. Surely there is no need to ignore the incidents of “vigilante justice” being perpetrated upon some offenders. It is a reality of life that deserves to be heard. However, it will not likely be the argument that wins the day in bringing about change in registry laws. Thank God for those so willing and ably qualified to determine the most effective ways to overcome (if possible) the deeply oppressive registry laws. Registered citizens need not fear, nor resort to fear-mongering. We simply must refuse to succumb, and continue to use the voice of reason to bring about meaningful change. It is a monumental hurdle, but it is a cause that can be won in time, or so one hopes.

  5. Fred

    I wouldn’t say highlighting this situation is fear mongering, but rather more evidence of the harmful effects of the registry laws. Imagine if these victims had their children with them at the time of the assaults by the vigilantes. That would contradict what the lawmakers claim the registry is for. The possibility of this happening while children are present seems likely enough to me.

    I wonder how many cases of harrassement or assault have not been reported. Maybe we should start a program to encourage registrants to come forward and share these incidents with us so we can get a better estimate on how often they happen.

    1. Defeats the purpose now, huh?

      Good point Fred. Kinda defeats the purpose for the “safety of children” now doesn’t it if the child(ren) are present during vigilante justice using registry info?

      If only a someone(s) would come forward with examples that can be used where children are impacted by this vigilante justice, that could grab some attention. Heck, it could even be non-violent, but verbal or other gesture(s) by someone acting out in a vigilante manner where a child(ren) are present.

      1. Fred

        Maybe NARSOL can send out an email blast asking members to come forward if any such incidents have happened.

  6. T

    Vigilantes that engage in crimes against registrants for the things they’ve done and claim that what they are doing is justifiable and reasonable are no less evil, and dangerous people. Vigilantes are criminals who are engaging in violent criminal acts while registrants that have already paid their debts to society and lived their lives normal and stays out of trouble.

  7. NH Registrant

    In my state, in 2014, someone was going around targeting people on the registry. The first found a man who was a paraplegic who had done time for a pornography possession charge. They shot him dead as soon as he answered the door. He died in his front hallway while sitting in his wheelchair. Not more than 10 miles away, a man was brutally beaten in the doorway of his home because he was mistaken for a registrant who lived nearby. The police, unsurprisingly, never found the perpetrator(s). They didn’t even do a full investigation. This is what we deal with. Janice Belucci has gone over the dangers of being on the useless registry and how it IS punishment – contrary to what our federal supreme court justices say.

    We on the registry live with targets on our own backs, the backs of our family members, and possibly those who live in our immediate area. The registry must be either made private and reporting requirements/fees lessened or eliminated. You should only have to report if you move. And you should NEVER have to pay a fee to be on the registry like it is some kind of privilege! You’re paying a fee so that you can endanger the people you love and those around you. Funny how politicians never make it on the registry who commit like offenses. It’s disgusting what our country has become. I am so glad we have people like NARSOL who fight for us. No one other than our family and friends will fight for us.

  8. Peter

    Whenever I walk out of my house or go to town I’m always looking over my shoulder. After I had to register in 2003 I was scared to death to leave the house.But now 13 and a 1/2 years later there is still some fear but not as much. I think if someone were to write down all the incidences of vigilante justice against registered citizens whether the victims are alive or dead and compile them in a book maybe someone would see what these laws are really doing.

    1. Jim

      Because of the passions that have been inflamed by the mass dissemination of false statistics, violence against sex offenders is merely collateral damage, under the guise of protecting the public. Just as people accept certain levels of contamination in their food, or levels of lead in their water, so they accept a degree of violence against registered citizens. The rule of law in our nation is slowly succumbing to the rage of passions, and registry laws are an example of this. I do not mean to disparage any of the lower courts, for there are some very fine judges in this land, who treasure the rights of ALL Americans. However, it is my personal opinion that the SCOTUS is the last bastion of Constitutional integrity in America. We simply must hope it remains so. It seems unlikely that help will come legislatively (be it state or federal), because politics is governed by what is popular and financially expedient.

      1. NH Registrant

        The SCOTUS ruled that “Registration is NOT punishment”. So, hopefully you’ll forgive me if I don’t trust them to actually advocate real justice. They are just as bought off by corporations and the “military industrial complex” (which owns law enforcement and the prison system) as the rest of the government.

  9. Guydownthestreet

    I have been Shot in the leg, attacked by by a guy with a knife. Had my break lines cut 9 times. I have had thinks thrown at my home. Countless windshields replaced. Obscene letters left on my doorstep. Verbally assaulted and threatened. Every single one of these incidents have been reported to police. NOTHING ever comes of it.
    When I was shot it took 12 hours for the police to respond. My crime? Consensual sex with a girl that was 17 years 11 months and 2 weeks old. I was 35 at the time.

    I did no jail time, Sentenced to 90 days of electronic monitoring. 10 years of probation and Life time registration. ( Arizona ) I moved to Louisiana With my wife and my reg time was reduced to what this states laws deem proper.

    After 9 years and 6 months of these things happening to me we decided it was best for my wife to move. She was also the target of a few incidents.

    I accept all of this. My interactions with that girl was wrong. I just want to know how much is enough?