In Isabella County in Michigan, Michelle Earl is attempting to have a registry made for violent offenders who have been released from prison. This idea came from the sex offender registries that sex offenders must register with in Michigan as well as most other states. Background checks will tell businesses if any applicants have criminal backgrounds, but everyday people don’t have the information or legal right to run background checks on their neighbors. Earl thinks that people should know if they are living next to violent offenders like John White, her neighbor who was convicted of attempted murder and manslaughter.
White has been living next to Earl and her fiancé, Kelvin Patterson, for three years, ever since Earl and Patterson moved in to the mobile home community where White lives. Earl says she though the man acted a little strangely, but when she and Patterson checked the Michigan State Department of Corrections website, they found nothing. However, the website only lists offenses for the past three years, so there could have been something in White’s past that was older than three years and so did not appear on the website. Eventually, the couple came to know White better and they became friendly neighbors. Earl says that he became close friend of the family and he even babysat for them a few times. White was also the pastor of the Christ Community Fellowship Church in town. No one knew what he had done in his past, because no one apart from any past employer was aware of the offenses that would have been revealed through a background check or if he had been listed in a violent offender registry.
When the community discovered White was arrested and convicted of attempted murder and homicide, they were horrified and very nervous about having the man in their close-knit community. Earl says that, like living next to a sex offender, living next to a violent offender is something people should know about. Patterson says he stands behind Earl all the way, and commented that they had all been fooled for three years and that their children will need counseling to help deal with the trauma. Earl first got the idea about a violent offender registry from background checks and sex offender registries and began talking about the idea on Facebook. Soon, she drafted a petition on the popular petition website Change.org. Earl has over 1,000 signatures on the petition so far and the number is climbing. She has also sent letters to the state legislators and to groups such as Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, Justice for Homicide Victims, and Justice for Murdered Children.
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Author: Michael Klazema