W hen a violent man who has a 30-year criminal history of abusing children does not appear on the state’s sex offender website, something is seriously wrong.
Mark Allen Vanderhoof, who was most recently convicted of murdering his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in 2011 in Lookingglass, has never been listed on the state’s sex offender website, sexoffenders.oregon.gov, despite numerous prior convictions for abusing children.
Vanderhoof is precisely the kind of person whose name should appear prominently on the site. His first child abuse conviction stretches back to 1980 when he physically assaulted his own 4-month-old daughter in Nevada. By 1988, he would be convicted three more times of child abuse and be sent to prison for 20 years for raping a 4-year-old girl in Douglas County.
Released after 12 years, he’d re-offend again and get sent back to prison.
When the Oregon State Legislature required the Oregon State Police to set up a publicly available website with information about predatory sex offenders, Vanderhoof’s name should have automatically been added to the site. With a record like his, he should not have been able to walk outside the prison’s gates until his parole board confirmed his name was on the site.
Instead, it took the mother of one of his victims to prod the state’s sex offender registration unit to try to get him listed.
It still didn’t happen.
The absence of his name makes us wonder how many other dangerous, violent predatory sex offenders are living in our midst and we have no way of knowing it.
The omissions render the website ineffective. That’s a shame. It means the intent of the Legislature hasn’t been carried out, nor has the state police done its job.
Now, the state has to defend itself in a lawsuit filed by Briana Snow, the mother of the 2-year-old Vanderhoof killed.
While we understand the extreme pain Snow must feel at the loss of her son, we would not have filed a lawsuit. We believe too much in personal responsibility to place all of the blame on the state police and Department of Corrections.
Still, the lawsuit brings to light the serious shortcomings of the sex offender registry. A 2013 report in The Oregonian said more than half of all states fail to meet the federal standards for keeping track of sex offenders, but Oregon is one of the worst. And Oregon has one of the nation’s largest populations of sex offenders per capita.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from this case, it’s that Oregon must find a way to follow its own laws to avoid future lawsuits.
Utilizing volunteers or offering a contract to an agency that can bring the registry up-to-date and maintain it is the least the state should do.
Oregonians must also realize they need to do their own background checks on potential partners. A website can’t provide all of the insight into a person’s character.