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Sex Offender Registries: Invitation to Vigilantism

July 2006:
Aiming through a living room window at 3:00 a.m. on April 16, 2006-- Easter Sunday-- Stephen A. Marshall shot and killed Joseph Gray. The victim had been dozing on a couch at his home in Milo, Maine. Five hours later, Marshall knocked on the door of William Elliot's vinyl-sided mobile home in Corinth, 24 miles away. When Elliot appeared, the 20-year-old assassin fired at point-blank range.

Moments later, when Ann Campbell found her boyfriend lying dead by the open door, his murderer still stood outside. Marshall stared at her, then returned to his father's silver pick-up truck and drove away. Campbell wrote down the gunman's license number and called the police.

Marshall's vehicle was found behind a skating rink in nearby Bangor. Discarded bullets linked to his weapon were found in the men's room of the local bus terminal, where employees said the fugitive had boarded a Vermont Transit coach bound for Boston. When officers surrounded the bus outside Boston's South Station, Marshall shot himself in the head with his father's .45-caliber handgun. He died a short time later at Boston Medical Center.

The murders were vigilante strikes against registered sex offenders who were strangers to Marshall and to each other. Marshall had obtained their addresses through Maine's online sex offender registry. He was by no means the first self-designated avenging angel to use such a resource.

His targets appear to have been picked for geographical availability, not for the specifics of their crimes. Elliot, 24, had confessed at age 20 to consensual sex with a girlfriend two weeks short of her 16th birthday. Convicted of "sexual abuse of a minor," he completed a four-month sentence in Penobscot County Jail. Gray, 57, who in 1992 had been sentenced to a four-to-six-year prison term in Massachusetts for sexual contact with a girl under 14, had recently been leading a circumspect existence with his wife.

Records found in Marshall's laptop suggested that during his lethal odyssey, the young vigilante may have visited four more residences where, for reasons unknown, he failed to act. At home in Nova Scotia, he had combed through online sex-offender registries in at least three New England states. Prior to his murder spree, Marshall had requested detailed information on 34 individuals from the Maine Sex Offender Registry, completing his research while visiting his father in Houlton, Maine, on the New Brunswick border.

The much-visited Maine Sex Offender Registry website,, is browsable from link to link and searchable by name, zip code, city or town. The site provides mug shots of 2200 registrants, along with their names, their dates of birth, the generally unenlightening legal terms for their crimes ("unlawful sexual contact," for example), and the names and addresses of their places of employment. Additional details, including home addresses, mailing addresses, physical statistics, and expanded legal descriptions of crimes, are available to persons willing to provide their names and addresses. When Marshall asked for more data, he gave his real name. ..more.. by Jim D'Entremont

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