Date: March 31, 2018
01) How Sex Offender Registries Can Result in Vigilante Murder
“Some Canadian conservatives are pushing for more public sex offender registries. But there is a history of deadly violence associated with them.
Stephen Marshall was driving through rural Maine under the cover of night with three guns by his side and a laptop with 34 names and addresses he’s found online.
It was the early hours of Easter Sunday in 2006 and 20-year-old Marshall, a dishwasher from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was paying a rare visit to his father in Houlton, Maine, a town near the Canada-US border. His father was asleep and had no idea that Marshall had taken his truck after quietly slipping out a window.
Around 3 AM, Marshall reached his first stop: about two hours southwest in the town of Milo, Maine. Fifty-seven-year-old Joseph Gray was in his living room asleep. He’d been up late watching Forensic Files with his wife. She was woken up by the sound of their dogs barking. Gray was shot and killed by Marshall through the living room window as she stood by, helpless.
Over the next few hours it’s believed that Marshall drove by at least four other homes, but it isn’t until just after 8 AM, that he meet his second victim.
Grey and Elliott were among around 2,200 names on Maine’s online sex offender registry in 2006. Marshall was able to access their photo, name, address, identifying characteristics—even their place of employment. And he wasn’t the only one checking them out. The registry was the state government’s most popular website at the time receiving over 200,000 hits a month.
By the end of the weekend the count of people dead at Marshall’s hand would rise to three. After abandoning the truck in Bangor, Marshall hopped a bus to Boston. Around 8 PM, as it approached its destination, the bus was surrounded by police. In his final act, Marshall put a .45 calibre handgun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was pronounced dead a few hours later.
One of the inconvenient truths about sex offender registries is that not all offenders are equally dangerous, nor are their crimes equally severe or prolific. Reasons for registration could cover, in theory, anything from groping to a violent sexual assault.
Stephen Gehl, a lawyer in Waterloo, Ontario, unsuccessfully challenged the Ontario sex registry in three superior courts on behalf of a client who was listed. He recalls the Marshall case and points out Elliott as indicative of one of the main problems of a public registry.
“It’s unlikely anyone would have thought this guy needs to be sent away (and) locked up forever and certainly not killed,” he told VICE.
But it’s not just Marshall and Oliver who’ve murdered someone they tracked down on an online sex offender registry.”