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Martinsburg to list sex offenders at forum

November 20, 1998|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Names and addresses of registered sex offenders living in Berkeley County will be released Dec. 7 at a public forum at Martinsburg High School.

The 7 p.m. meeting will be the public's first look at the names, and in some cases photos, of convicted sex offenders who are required to register with West Virginia State Police as part of a new state law.

"In some cases, these are friends and neighbors," Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said. "They are here, they are among you. You might as well know who they are."

The law, based on New Jersey's "Megan's Law," requires state police to maintain a list that will include:

* Name, age and appearance of the offender.

* A description of the crime.

* Police information on the offender's criminal techniques.

The list will be available through the state police, as well as on an Internet site that will go online Dec. 7.

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Games-Neely would not say how many people are on the county list.

Berkeley will be the third county in West Virginia to make the list public, Games-Neely said.

Kanawha and Cabell counties released lists earlier this year. Morgan and Jefferson counties are expected to do the same before the end of the year, Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely said she hopes that releasing the names at a public meeting will help people get answers to questions they might have about the lists.

The law requires sex offenders to register with the state police whenever they change their address. Offenders who fail to notify police face criminal penalties.

Some offenders considered less violent than others are required to register for 10 years after conviction. Violent offenders remain on the list for life.

While sex offenders have the responsibility to register with state police, Games-Neely said the public has a responsibility not to misuse the list.

"I do have concerns this could be a cause for vigilantism," she said. "People must use this responsibly."

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