New registry of murderers proposed

      Missouri’s current sex offender registry would be expanded to include a registry of individuals who are on probation or parole for first or second degree murder under a bill being considered in the House.

Representative Lane Roberts (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The legislation would not simply add such individuals to the existing registry, according to bill sponsor Lane Roberts (R-Joplin)

“This is a separate column.  It does not mix the data.  It would rename the registry, ‘Sex offender and violent offender registry.’  Its purpose is to allow the public to know who is on parole for second degree murder,” Roberts told the Committee on Crime Prevention

Roberts explained that Missouri citizens often don’t know when someone guilty of such violent crimes is living or working near them.

“Conviction of second degree murder often is the result of a plea bargain.  Often the underlying conduct is first degree murder,” said Roberts.

Legislators on the committee asked whether such information is already available to the public through avenues such as the Missouri Court System’s website.  He said that isn’t always an avenue for an average Missourian. 

Further, he said such state-based resources won’t list such individuals when they come to Missouri from other states through the interstate compact, and most Missourians don’t even know that can happen.

      Testifying for the bill was Mona Lisa Caylor, who said it was a man on parole for a 1983 murder in Tennessee who murdered her sister, Willana “Anita” Dunn in 2016 and dropped her body down an abandoned mine shaft. 

      Caylor told legislators her sister allowed her killer into her life and was even renting her home from him.  She and her family knew nothing about his criminal background, or that the life story he had told them was a lie.

      “Why are paroled violent murderers allowed to be anonymous?” Caylor asked the committee.  “Why would we not want to know who is working, who is living in our community that’s a murderer?”

      “They deserve a second chance.  They get their chance.  There’s not a parole board that can ever guarantee that someone is not going to reoffend,” Caylor added.

      Representative Rasheen Aldridge Jr. (D-St. Louis) wondered what this registry would accomplish, and what it would mean for individuals who are trying to reintegrate into society after serving their prison time.

      That’s just my concern, that we’re only giving people that, once they do do their time and we say ‘second chances’ and we believe in second chances, that this is kind of giving them a second chance but also saying, ‘Watch out for Tim down the street,” said Aldridge.  “[I] think it’s a good idea but I don’t understand the accountability piece or really the reasoning of adding them to a registry and we’re not giving them either the services they need or truly trying to give them a second chance without a black cloud being over them.”

      Roberts acknowledged Aldridge’s concerns.  He said that while no one should assume that because someone has committed one murder that they will commit another, he feels that if someone has overcome their conscious to kill once it raises concern they could do it again.

      “People of a certain caliber or a certain level of criminal activity have a different propensity and the consequences of their actions have a different consequence to the victims associated with those crimes.  That’s why we have a sex offender registry, because of the consequences of the crimes that they commit,” said Roberts.

      The bill, House Bill 1705, specifies that individuals on this new registry would come off of it when they complete their probation or parole.  The committee voted 7-1 to advance the bill, which now faces another committee before it could go to the full House.