What is and is NOT a hero

Published 3/24/23 at the Crime Report

By Sandy . . . A disturbing and bizarre story is emerging in the tiny town of Grand Marais, Cook County, Minnesota, population 1,334. It is a story with multi-layered complexity, each layer raising more questions than the one before.

On March 8, 2023, a 27-year-old Grand Marias vigilante, Levi Axtell, covered in his victim’s blood and gore, drove to the sheriff’s office, and with his hand on his head, he said he had just killed Lawrence Scully, 77, in Mr. Scully’s home. Mr. Scully’s body bore defensive injuries, as the Associated Press reports.

The old man reportedly fought back against a killer almost a third of his age.

Good for him.

The weapons were a shovel – wielded up to twenty times against the victim’s head according to Axtell — and a rack of moose horns, items found in the victim’s home. Axtell was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Axtell’s reason for his action is that he believed Scully intended to sexually molest his – Axtell’s – young daughter and her daycare peers and believed Scully had been stalking her.

Apparently, Axtell had held this belief for some time, having made a complaint in 2018 and asking for an order of protection against Scully. It was granted but removed after several weeks because law enforcement investigations found no evidence to support the claim.

Scully’s status as a registered sex offender was certainly known in the tiny town. He ran for mayor in 2014, and media stories then discussed his crime and conviction. It is unclear whether he was ever displayed on Minnesota’s public registry. A search of the database did not return his record nor, incidentally, any current registrant at all in Cook County, Minnesota.

One bizarre twist to this already bizarre story are the postings of a woman named Melissa Axtell, identified as the “believed-to-be” sister of Levi. She expresses gratitude to the people of Grand Marias for their “outpouring” of love and support for Levi upon his becoming a murderer. She  also sponsored a fundraising page, now removed, a page whereon at least one donor used the comment function of the page to call Axtell “a hero.”

The inappropriateness of calling the vicious killer of a defenseless, elderly man a “hero” for committing a violent criminal act pushes the limits of “bizarre” to a new level. One of the media outlets writing about this, while not going as far as the fundraising page comment, includes a quote from a former FBI agent that implies a jury might share this view of Axtell.

“Former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer believes that the jury will be ‘very sympathetic’ to Axtell. ‘I am not excusing his actions. . . But typically, a person who commits a crime like this, for these reasons, is received [sic] a lighter sentence’ Coffindaffer said . . .” Additionally, a YouTube video that calls Axtell a hero has received well over nine thousand views.

This is, of course, not an unexpected twist nor a particularly original one. Several years ago blogger Shelly Stow and member of Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc, (now NARSOL) pointed out that those with sexual offense convictions and in general population in prison have a high expectation of being beaten or murdered, and that expectation is shared by staff and administration. National media carried reports of praise and acclaims of heroism for an Alaskan man who used the registry to hunt down and violently attack registered sexual offenders with a hammer.

James Fairbanks was hailed as a hero in some reports for the coldblooded murder of a formerly convicted sexual offender. And these are all, except for YouTube, mainstream media.

YouTube and other social media platforms are rife with praise and accolades for those who “protect children” by killing “sex offenders.”

The subtext is clear: Those who are on a sexual offender registry – regardless of the offense – or who have a sexual offense conviction are worth less than everyone else; they deserve to be attacked, maimed, or killed; they should be killed; killing such a person is a noble act, an act of bravery, and those brave enough to commit such an act are heroes.

This is what the sex offender registry says about every man, woman, and child listed on it.

Would Lawrence Scully have molested a child? We don’t know. We will never know. But among the things we do know are these:

We do not, in this country, take the law into our own hands, in vigilante fashion, and kill someone.

We do not, in this country, kill someone for something we believe they might do, something for which they have not been arrested, let alone convicted.

We do not, in this country, bludgeon and massacre someone to death with shovels and moose horns.

And when we do, it is, literally, murder; it is an unconscionable criminal act. It is not the act of a hero. Heroes die on battlefields saving their comrades in arms. They rush into burning buildings to rescue children. They sacrifice their own lives to stop others from being killed. They spend years of their lives caring for the aged, the maimed and the vulnerable.

They do not wantonly, cruelly, or viciously commit murder.


Levi Axtell is currently in Cook County jail and is scheduled to appear in court on April 10.

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32 Thoughts to “What is and is NOT a hero”

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  1. Aj

    Since the inception of the registry, i reverted to my decade plus prison tactics of watching carefully everything and everyone around me.
    I was in my twenties when i committed my crime, and paid for it as per my sentence.
    Yet the politicians continually need votes so the sex offender issue is played.
    The judges on our highest court worry of public perception and rule the registry as NON PUNITIVE.
    Vigilantes as Axtel are hailed heros and the bandwagon fills with folks, they call it justice.
    But it sure seems more like retribution.
    This our world, my world. Worry about our children, our grandchildren, but all our worries fall on deaf ears or cannot be heard over the false crap the media and Hollywood put out there.
    Maybe we need our own Army.

    1. Jim

      Hey, AJ you speak the truth. We also do need our own Army. I am very prepared for such an attack. Thank You Narsol for being on our side!

  2. TM

    Hopefully, Mr. Scully will be a martyr for our cause. May his death raise the awareness that the “Registry” is a death sentence to to people on it. May his death led to abolishing this punitive tool of the law.

  3. The Criminalized Man

    There seems to be a government program of turning us all afraid of our fellow citizens. The registry was the first piece, or one of the first pieces. “Here is a list of people to shun, courtesy of your new caretaker the Administrative State.” More lists have been added since: no-fly lists, terror watch lists, on and on.

  4. Ed C

    Not only does the registry provide a hit list for crazy persons, it also tells them that their targets likely don’t have firearms because they are felons. In vigilantes deranged minds, this could be perceived as a low-risk way to becoming a “hero.” If the murder target had been a non-registrant, this vigilante may well have been stopped by a shotgun blast the moment after coming through the door, and labeled as what he is. As this country becomes increasingly polarized and angry, we can expect more lashing out at the registry’s soft targets.

    1. Jerry

      I got news for you. In Texas once a convicted felon has been off parole for 5 years regardless of his crime he can own a firearm in his house for his protection. Don’t believe me look it up. People on the registry in that state need to be made aware of this fact. I guarantee if a vigilante was also aware of this fact the coward wouldn’t consider attacking these people. And another thing, this was premeditated murder, why isn’t he being charged with first degree murder? And someone can’t say he’s taking the “law” into his own hands because no law was broken by the victim.

      1. Tim in WI

        Please review a case called 89 firearms for short.
        I think it’s very similar to smith v doe because of what that minority opinion said about the fantasy presumed against the inalienable facts. Convicting individuals felons for possession of a firearm will NOT act as deterrent. Believing it would was pure fantasy, but provide good political optics. Same is true of the presumption ” A database ” could prevent interpersonal attack but not with affirmative restraint.( intent).

      2. Ed C

        Jerry, I know nothing about Texas law. It would be great if that state does allow felons to possess firearms in the home for protection. However any felon in possession of a firearm would still be in violation of federal law. The feds can assert jurisdiction through its absurdly broad application of the Commerce Clause. That pertains if the gun or its components at some point crossed a state boundary. This is very similar to how the feds claim jurisdiction in states where recreational pot is lawful. Whether they would choose to prosecute is up to the local U.S. Attorney. Texas felons can take that chance if they choose, but beware. Oh, I totally agree that the charge should have been first degree murder.

  5. Bob

    And he was charged with 2nd degree murder. If Scully wasn’t a sex offender it would be 1st degree murder.

    1. Matthew

      This is what they do with crimes against inmates in prison. You can be charged with a crime, but the law specifically gives a lesser maximum penalty to crimes against other inmates, at least in California. What a sick way to look at humanity.

    2. Sandy Rozek

      More likely it was because he used weapons in the victim’s house rather than taking a murder weapon with him, and the state would not be able to sustain a charge of premediated — 1st degree — murder.

      1. TS

        Premeditation usually refers to planning the purpose and design to kill prior to commission of the act, while deliberation usually requires that the act be committed in a cool state of blood and in furtherance of a fixed design to kill. (US OJP)

        If he used only his hands, it would be premeditated because he thought about it, had the mens rea, planned it, and the ability to do it before he actually did it. Regardless of where the shovel or moose antlers came from, he meets the criteria for premeditated murder in the first degree. The state will not make an example of his vigilantism because it does not help their cause even if it violates the fine print of the registry.

        If the victim has any family, then they should be hiring an attorney to file a civil rights lawsuit against the state and the individual like Ron Goldman’s family did in the 90’s against the white Bronco passenger. (I still think the state is third party guilty like a bar could be for over serving a patron who then kills someone. The state is serving the info online to all the masses.)

  6. Dustin

    I would add cowardice to Axtell’s motivation. Would he have been so inclined to attack a registrant who was, say, in his 30s or 40s? Or one more physically imposing or otherwise more capable of defending himself? I suspect not.

    The same cowardice was on display in Sandy’s other examples. Fairbanks went to his victim’s house with a shotgun. Jason Vukovich, the Alaskan alluded to above, only attacked (and robbed) elderly registrants as well.

  7. Michael Rhoades

    Along these same lines, I was at a biker “swap meet” last year, and was disgusted, though not really surprised, to see for sale and displayed on at least one attendee’s vest a patch that read “Save a Deer, Shoot a Pedophile”. My son is on the registry in Ohio. I fear for his safety, and for his brother and sister-in-law with whom he is living.

  8. Nicky

    Perhaps someone should be a hero and convict and sentence Levi to what he deserves.

  9. WC_TN

    I say courts have the blood of murdered PFRs on their hands. Judge Matsch in CO ruled the state’s registry law unconstitutional because of society’s violence toward those listed therein. He opened that the violence and abuse we face from the public breached the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. He was spot-on. What did the 10th Circuit do with that honest ruling when the state appealed and other state A.G s filed amicus briefs supporting the registry? THEY THREW JUDGE MATSCH’S RULING OUT. The 10th Circuit ignored and dismissed the truths told in Judge MATSCH’S ruling which, in my opinion, made it open season on PFRs.

  10. Sean

    Vigilantes need to consider that if a SO is a criminal, what is to stop them from being illegally armed? In my state the actual penalty is small compared to being dead. Just sayin. I would never be armed because I am not a criminal. I would call the sheriffs office if I were ever attacked. I could hold off an attacker for 40 to 50 minutes until the cops get here.

  11. Jill

    Just another example of public paranoia and automatic assumptions from a past crime from 1979! You walk near a daycare, you must be looking for a child to groom. And a 22 month old? Please explain how a 77 year would gain access and groom a child that is sitting in a wagon near the daycare provider. It doesn’t make sense. He decided he was above the law by his own assumptions. This was not self defense and there was no immediate threat that makes this okay. Hold him accountable.

    1. Tim in WI

      He decided he was a victim!
      I’m a victim of xyz, therefore by manifest, I may act unreasonably and violently.
      As if our social environment isn’t chalk full of entertainment messages and stories of violence, crime and chaos. Absolute bombardment, attack, attack, attack! Sow the seeds.

  12. S

    The northern counties of Minnesota are not remotely accepting of anything that is or was on the registry, where Grand Marais is located. Minnesota is known for keeping people locked up beyond their sentence completion. There’s more of a ‘not in my backyard’ approach to people on the registry, by liberals and conservatives alike.

    They’ll kindly give directions to anyone, on how to leave.

  13. Tiffany

    Abolish the registry. It does more harm than good.

    1. Tim in WI

      It’s the over dependence upon the database to solve human problems. I “need” therefore I must internet.
      This of course equates to the “easy button” humans adore. Problem is you’ve enslaved humanity.

      No doubt data entry is easy labor. So when bureaucrats who get paid for administrative function suggest a registration process isn’t labor, time and effort, same as theirs, except Registrant pays in, the relative disposition to the machine is different. It is inverse disposition. It isn’t reasonable to both demand the use of the thing as integral, then deny the effect on relativity as you “Strike a balance.” ( ex post jurisprudence)
      Human value must always outweigh machine value- Asimov
      A pure case of cognitive dissonance!

  14. A Mistake They Made

    The registry endangers registrants here is more proof.

    1. WC_TN

      Since were are “only sex offenders” the courts don’t count our lives as being as valuable as those who have never committed a crime, particularly a sexual crime. Our lives are devalued by default in the court’s eyes!!!

  15. CJB

    Ms Sandy…thank you once again for Your Noble Efforts, not ‘Theirs’

    Here is the Terrifying thing

    “Former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer believes that the jury will be ‘very sympathetic’ to Axtell. ‘I am not excusing his actions. . . But typically, a person who commits a crime like this, for these reasons, is received [sic] a lighter sentence’ Coffindaffer said . . .” Additionally, a YouTube video that calls Axtell a hero has received well over nine thousand views.

    Ms Sandy, it is ‘The Proof in the Pudding’….You got it Spot On!

    Thank You

  16. Jorge M

    I’ve always asked if there is a registry why not have one for convicted drug dealers. They equally abuse our children and love ones with the drugs they so willingly offer. And, a registry for all those convicted of DUI’s. They put every parent with children in their cars and love ones at risk. Wonder how the public feels if a vigilante wanna-be person goes after those people. Scully tried living the rest of his life in peace for he already paid his debt for his actions. We should never stop the fight to end this registry and educate with logic.

    1. Rob A.

      Amen to that. They perpetuate the crime in this country. The destruction of families. They abuse state resources. Where I live, my state is trying to pass a law right now to give out 50 year sentences to fentenal dealers and I support it a hundred percent. This stuff messes with people in the worst ways imaginable. It’s too bad we can’t handle our drug problem in this country like they do in Singapore. Them guys set a tough example.

  17. Tim in WI

    Even presuming the registry itself was not factually involved in his murder; the over arching dogma of sex offender paranoia was cemented into American psychE by the advent of the ” necessity ” for sex offender registries themselves. He didn’t do this murder in a vacuum. Neither did the murdered in the Salas Case. The killer of master Salas however didn’t walk into PD and surrender! That fact alone proves he knew it was wrong to kill. Temporary insanity is certain to fail as a defense here too. Premeditated seems the proper description. What makes anti-registration advocates believe the advent of “a database use” was anything but premeditated too!
    Even Einstein himself recognized the idea of thought experiments. How best to secure unfettered use, or every potential use, would have been the goal of the purveyors seeking market protections. All evidence reminiscent of other American industrial infrastructure revolutions.
    Last I checked “data entry” is a job. Laying railroad track is another.

  18. WC_TN

    givesendgo.com has not taken down the fundraiser for Axtell’s legal defense even though it has been reported with supporting links to show what this murdering monster has done. I guess with them it’s ok to murder someone on the registry. Disgusting!

  19. w


    Movie heroes? Nobody needs that.

    How about people who recognize the frailty of humanity? And that a little compassion can help when everyone else left you for dead. A hero is something you can buy and put on or have a poster of. A decent human being is someone who actually has feeling and tries to live by the golden rule.

    “Do unto others as you would have done unto thee”.

    1. Tim in WI

      A reality of hero’s is factually most of them were made hero’s not by their own volition in right doing or wrong doing, but by the environmental circumstances beyond their control. It the environment that creates perception of heroism.

  20. Tim in WI

    Imagine a scenario where a prison warden is in a court setting making a complaint with a DA about a man not being on his property. The defendant is charged with escape.
    However when the defense attorney goes to record and produces it for the court NO record exists whereby the man was supposed to be in prison.
    That is tantamount to what scenario SOR Agents face when they find themselves facing me in pre-trial. NARSOL may want to come along for the ride next time. When they reach for the record, I go all in. Because I can!
    P.S. No standard waiver.