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Saturday, February 14, 2009

WA- Killings of 2 Bellingham sex offenders may have been by vigilante, police say

This documents one (Hank Eisses) of the two deaths that night. The story of the other sex offender murdered (Victor Vasquez) is HERE
8-30-2005 Washington:

BELLINGHAM — Last Friday night, a man claiming to be an FBI agent dropped in on three Level 3 sex offenders living together, supposedly to warn them of an Internet "hit list" targeting sex offenders.

The man was not an FBI agent, but he may have been enforcing a hit list of his own creation.

Two of the roommates were found dead early Saturday of gunshot wounds, and Bellingham police are investigating a crime that authorities say may be one of the nation's most serious cases of vigilantism aimed at sex offenders.

The killings also highlight a potential problem about Washington's 1990 law requiring sex offenders to register their addresses so the public can keep track of them.
Bellingham Police Chief Randall Carroll said it is too early to conclude that Hank Eisses, 49, and Victor Vasquez, 68, were killed because they were sex offenders. Police released a sketch of the suspect, who is still at large.

Note: See what Vasquez's daughter has to say about her father's murder.
But Carroll noted that their address — and descriptions of their crimes — were posted on the city's Web site, and if someone used that information to target Eisses and Vasquez, it could have a broad impact.

"Certainly if sex offenders were targeted and attacked because of their offense, the Legislature could decide they could repeal our sex-offender notification law," Carroll said.

Eisses owned the house where the killings took place, and had rented rooms for the past three years to Vasquez and James Russell, 42.

Russell was there the night the suspect showed up, but he soon left to go to work. When he returned about 3 a.m., he told police, he found his roommates dead. Based on their estimated time of death, and the fact that Russell was at work, he is not considered a suspect, according to police. Results of an autopsy are expected later this week, Carroll said.

Vasquez was convicted in 1991 of molesting several relatives. According to court documents, his victims endured regular abuse, sexual and otherwise. He was on Department of Corrections supervision at the time of the murder.

Russell was convicted in 1994 of molesting a 3-year-old girl, and released from DOC supervision about three weeks ago after serving 5 ½ years in prison.

While the public is understandably concerned about sex crimes, Kit Bail, a DOC official, said the three men have been quiet, law-abiding offenders while living together. None of the three had violated supervision conditions, she said, and none had reoffended.

"In a sense, they are a success story," said Bail, the DOC's field supervisor for Whatcom County. "These guys were doing fine. They were employed. They were living according to the conditions."

The killings, she said, should "not be the basis on which we change the laws on registration, but if it is a vigilante act, it gives one pause. It gives me concern about other Level 3 sex offenders living responsibly — or even irresponsibly — in the community. Murder is not the response anywhere."

A fake FBI agent

Eisses was sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison in 1997 for raping a 13-year-old boy at his home in Sumas, near the Canadian border. He was released from DOC supervision about two years ago, Bail said.

He bought a blue house with a white picket fence in Bellingham's Columbia neighborhood — about a half-mile from a middle school — with the help of Theodore Kingma. In a brief interview, Kingma said he met Eisses at church. "He confessed his sins, and he lived right with God and the neighbors," said Kingma. "That's all I know."

It is unclear how Eisses met Russell and Vasquez. One of Russell's relatives said Russell's sex-offender status made it difficult to find a place to live until he moved in with Eisses.

According to police, Russell said a man wearing a blue jumpsuit and a hat with an FBI logo dropped by at about 9 p.m. on Friday to warn the trio of the alleged "hit list."

There were no FBI agents in the neighborhood that day, prompting the bureau to open an investigation of impersonation, said FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs. The case does not qualify for federal hate-crime prosecution because the law does not appear to cover sex offenders, she said.

Too much information?

In response to a series of vicious sex crimes against children, Washington became the first state to require sex offenders to register their address upon release from prison. Level 3 offenders like Eisses, Vasquez and Russell, considered the most likely to commit a new crime, must register for life.

Since then, most states and the federal government have passed similar mandatory-notification laws.

A searchable, statewide database maintained by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs provides block-specific addresses for Level 2 and 3 offenders. Other municipalities — including Bellingham — go further by giving exact addresses.
That information has led some to take the law into their own hands. In 1993, Joseph Gallardo planned to move into his family's home in Lynnwood after serving about three years for the statutory rape of a 10-year-old girl.

The home was burned after neighbors heard of Gallardo's plan. He then planned to move to New Mexico but encountered fierce protests there. He returned to Lynnwood, where he still lives. He has not been convicted of another crime.
John La Fond, a lawyer who fought the notification law on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, said posting sex offenders' addresses "almost becomes a confession by the state that they cannot keep the society safe from harm, and invites society to take matters into its own hands."

In researching a 2005 book on notification laws, he found dozens of assaults and harassment against sex offenders. Eisses and Vasquez, he said, may be the first deaths.

Don Pierce, head of the police-chiefs association, said the case will renew the debate on publishing sex offenders' addresses.

"I think there are risks and this may prove to be an example of one of those risks," said Pierce. "I also think the public and Legislature have said there's a risk to the general public if they don't know with specificity where a sex offender lives." ..more.. by Mike Carter and staff researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.


Police Say Idaho Case Inspired Sex Offenders' Killer

9-7-2005 National

SEATTLE -- The man who confessed to slaying two registered sex offenders in Bellingham told police that he was outraged by the recent case of Joseph Edward Duncan III, a convicted sexual predator being held in Idaho.

Michael Anthony Mullen, 36, made a brief court appearance Tuesday in Whatcom County Superior Court, about 80 miles north of here, after turning himself in to Bellingham police Monday afternoon.

A longtime resident of Whatcom County with a history of petty crimes, Mullen faces charges in the Aug. 26 shooting deaths of Hank Eisses, 49, and Victor Vasquez, 68. Both victims were Level III sex offenders, considered the most likely to commit similar crimes again. Mullen's arrest all but ended fears that a vigilante was on the loose targeting other registered sex offenders in the Bellingham area.

"It's a relief that he's not running around anymore with who-knows-what on his mind, probably more of the same," said Bellingham Mayor Mark Asmundson, who was informed of Mullen's arrest just minutes after it happened.

According to police, Mullen called 911 from a Bellingham restaurant and confessed to the murders. He was arrested and questioned for "hours and hours," said Bellingham police Lt. Craige Ambrose.

Investigators said Mullen provided details of the crime that only the killer would know, such as the caliber of the weapon and the way in which each victim was shot: once in the head. Ambrose said that during the interview Mullen repeatedly "came back around to the Idaho incident," referring to the Duncan case.

"Let's just say he was influenced by what happened there," Ambrose said. Duncan, a 42-year-old convicted sex predator from Tacoma, Wash., is in Kootenai County, Idaho, awaiting trial for the murders of four people and the kidnapping of two children in May near Coeur D'Alene. Duncan is being investigated in the deaths of other children across four states.

Less than two weeks after Duncan's case made national headlines, police said Mullen got on a Whatcom County Website that listed the names and addresses of all Level III sex offenders in the county.

Eisses and Vasquez lived with a third sex offender in a little green house on Northwest Avenue. According to earlier reports, the suspect had entered the victims' home, just north of downtown Bellingham, impersonating an FBI agent. The suspect told the men there was a "hit list" targeting sex offenders and that he was there to warn them.

The third man left for work with the suspect still in the house. When he returned home from work, the man found his housemates dead. Eisses had been convicted of child rape, Vaquez, of child rape and molestation. Both men had committed their crimes in Whatcom County.

On Aug. 31, five days after the murders, the Bellingham Herald received a letter from someone claiming responsibility for the killings and threatening to kill all other Whatcom County sex offenders designated as Level III. The county has 31 registered Level III offenders, including four in Bellingham, which has a population of 71,000.

Police said Mullen has confessed to sending the letter, and told investigators that more letters would soon be arriving at other media outlets. Ambrose said he did not know the content of those letters.

Ambrose said Mullen, a big man standing at 6-foot-5-inches and weighing nearly 250 pounds, had no known history of violence but had an extensive history of theft and other property crimes. Mullen had no permanent address, police said.

The slayings stirred debate over the 1990 state law requiring sex offenders to register their addresses. Washington was the first state to pass such a law, which is intended to help the public keep track of dangerous sexual predators. Congress mandated that states create registers of sex offenders. Now all 50 states have their own version of Washington's Community Protection Act.

Supporters say the public has a right to know about such offenders, but opponents argue that publicizing exact addresses invites vigilantism and prevents sexual offenders from leading normal lives. ..more.. by AP


Sketchy details released on inmate death

9-15-2007 Washington

Michael Mullen, a Stafford Creek Corrections Center inmate who died in April, was determined to have died of pneumonia, but the manner of death is undetermined because “acute mild drug toxicity” is a contributing factor, according to Grays Harbor County Coroner Ed Fleming. Initially, the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department indicated they believed Mullen had committed suicide.

Mullen, from Bellingham, had an extensive law enforcement history, mostly involving minor crimes. But he was at Stafford Creek for the high-profile murder of two Level Three sex offenders, whom he found on a local sex offender registry Web site. He killed the two men after showing up at their home posing as an FBI agent, a ruse he said he used to confirm that the men were indeed sex offenders and to determine if they were sincerely repentant.

Fleming said Mullen had ingested prescription drugs, but the coroner would not say which drugs. “It’s a medical privacy issue,” he said. And he would not say whether the doses were therapeutic or not.

“There was enough medication, but not enough to cause the death directly,” Fleming said.

Instead, Fleming said, the immediate cause of death was lobar pneumonia, an illness in which an infection of the lungs causes them to fill with fluid, interfering with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen.

An official at the State Patrol, which handles the toxicology tests, said they were unable to discuss test results.

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office preliminarily believed Mullen, 37, had taken his own life, basing that on a lack of blunt force trauma and because of writings recovered from the dead man’s cell. Mullen was in the intensive management unit, where he did not have contact with other inmates.

Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said the department was still putting the pieces together to figure out what led to Mullen’s death. An investigation is still under way, and the corrections department does not comment on open investigations, Lewis said.

Mullen died on the night of April 15, two hours after being found unresponsive in his cell. The prison’s Health Care Unit gave him first aid until emergency crews arrived. ..more.. by Callie White - Daily World Writer

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