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Names of sex offenders released

December 07, 1998|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The names of 14 of 37 registered sex offenders in Berkeley County were released Monday night at a public forum at Martinsburg High School.

West Virginia State Police handed out a 14-page packet that listed the name, age, height, weight, hair color and eye color of each of the sex offenders required to be on the list for the rest of their lives. Photos were available in some cases.

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All of the sex offenders on the list are men and half live in or near Martinsburg. The other men live in Inwood, Hedgesville, Bunker Hill and Falling Waters, according to the list.

Names on the list ranged from that of a 75-year-old Martinsburg man convicted of sexually assaulting 12- and 10-year-old members of his family to a 45-year-old Hedgesville man convicted in Virginia of sodomizing and sexually battering a female employee under his supervision.

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Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Jean Games-Neely said a new state law requires the county to make the names of certain registered sex offenders available to the public.

Similar lists already are available in Kanawha and Cabell counties, and similar releases are planned in Morgan and Jefferson counties.

The West Virginia law requires all sex offenders who are ordered to appear on the list by a court to register with the state police any time they change their addresses, even if they were convicted of a sex offense in another state. Failure to notify police results in criminal penalties, said officials.

The list is divided into two sections, those who are required to register for 10 years after their date of conviction, and those who are required to register for the rest of their lives.

Offenses that require lifetime registration are 1st- and 2nd-degree sexual assault, 1st-degree sexual abuse and the sexual assault of a spouse.

Among the offenses that call for 10-year registration are incest, use of minors in filming sexually explicit conduct and sexual abuse by parent, guardian or custodian, among others.

Games-Neely said the names of the 23 people on the 10-year registration list can be released only to those on a preapproved list, including day-care providers and employers who serve the young or elderly.

State law requires the names on the lifetime registration to be released.

Monday night's public forum drew about five people, mostly women, but Games-Neely said she was not surprised by the low turnout.

"I expect most people plan to learn about the list in the media or on the Internet," Games-Neely said.

She said the county was required by the state to hold a public meeting prior to releasing the list.

Flanked by representatives from area victims groups and shelters, Games-Neely warned people to use the list responsibly and said any acts of vigilantism would not be tolerated.

The danger of public backlash is one of the reasons the West Virginia law and similar laws across the country have been opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Hilary Chiz, the executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia, said the public notification process stigmatizes people who have already served their time.

Chiz said she fears publication of sex offender lists will prompt people to take the law into their own hands.

"It will do nothing to resolve the serious problem of child sex abuse," said Chiz.

One of the people on the list and the mother of another said they do not like the law.

"The boy did his time. I don't know why they have to bring this up again," said Veronica Gladden, mother of William Benton Gladden Jr., 44, of Inwood, W.Va. He was convicted in Delaware in 1987 on one count of attempted second-degree rape, according to West Virginia State Police.

Gladden's mother said she fears that releasing her son's name might cause him to lose his job or be evicted by his landlord.

"He's got his life together. He loves kids. He will never bother any of them," said Veronica Gladden.

William Benton Gladden's victim was a 7-year-old female relative, said state police. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with seven years suspended, and was placed on probation for seven years, state police said.

Another man on the list who lives in Bunker Hill, W.Va., said he did not think it was fair to his family to have his name released.

The man, who did not want to be identified, said he went through five years of therapy, two more years than were required.

Ron Chin, an associate dean at Rutgers University in New Jersey, questioned the effectiveness of releasing the names of registered sex offenders.

"I'm not sure it actually prevents crime," Chin said. "In fact, it might do the opposite."

Chin said some sex offenders might be more apt to go underground in an effort to avoid being ostracized by society.

"If this is the trend, it means people will effectively have even less knowledge of sex offenders."

* The Berkeley County list was to go online today at the West Virginia State Police Web site at www.wvstatepolice.com.




Staff Writer Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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