March 2nd, 2010
04:39 PM ET

Thousands of sex offenders unlisted?


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/02/art.vert.sex.offenders.jpg caption="John Albert Gardner III was arrested in connection with disappearance of Chelsea King." width=292 height=320]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

Human remains found today in a shallow grave are likely those of Chelsea King, a missing 17-year-old girl from San Diego County, California, police say.

John Albert Gardner III, arrested in connection with the disappearance of King, is one of 63,000 people required to register as sex offenders in California, according to the state’s department of justice web site.

Of that number, the site lists the exact home addresses of about 33,500 of the names. Information on an additional 22,000 sex offenders living in California is not provided on the site.

Megan's Law was enacted after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl was raped and killed by a known child molester who had moved across the street from the family without their knowledge.  After her death, the Kanka family sought to have local communities warned about sex offenders in their areas. The law stipulates that the public has a right to know of sexual offenders residing in their local communities.  All states now have a form of the law.

But the absence of pertinent information on thousands of sexual offenders raises questions about whether California is adequately notifying its citizens.

On the site, the state enumerates the requirements for offenders to be excluded from the site:

“Registrants whose only registrable sex offenses are for the following offenses may apply for exclusion: (1) sexual battery by restraint (Penal Code § 243.4, subd. (a)); (2) misdemeanor child molestation (Penal Code § 647.6, or former section 647a); or (3) any offense which did not involve penetration or oral copulation, the victim of which was a child, stepchild, grandchild, or sibling of the offender, and for which the offender successfully completed or is successfully completing probation.”

An official for the department of justice said excluding certain offenders from the web site was mandated by the state legislator. “Who gets posted on the web site is determined by statute, which offenders are posted with full address, which are posted with zip code only and which are not posted at all, are mandated by the legislator and we followed the law,” the official told CNN.

For the 22,000 names that are not published on the site, the official said they are “the lowest risk offenders, in general.”

CNN Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom rejected the decision by the lawmakers. “Apparently the legislature has made a determination that incest is "low risk" behavior, a proposition with which I disagree,” Bloom said. “A child molester is a child molester, and a person who sexually abuses his own child or family member often causes lifelong emotional injury to his victim.”

For more crime coverage go to cnn.com/crime.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
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