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Originally published Sunday, September 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Nicole Brodeur

Slayings add new fuel to old debate

It is a little green house in Bellingham. But in one day, it became the axis on which lives turned in fateful directions. It is where three...

Seattle Times staff columnist

It is a little green house in Bellingham.

But in one day, it became the axis on which lives turned in fateful directions. It is where three men tried to restart their lives, and where one man sought to avenge a childhood betrayal by killing two of them.

The house is now the place from where the rest of us have resumed the never-ending conversation about how to deal with convicted sex offenders.

On Thursday, Whatcom County prosecutors charged Michael A. Mullen, 35, with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder. They say Mullen confessed to plotting and carrying out the Aug. 26 killings of Victor Vazquez, 68, and Hank Eisses, 49.

Both were convicted sex offenders living at the house in Bellingham when prosecutors say Mullen, posing as an FBI agent, was allowed in and, hours and a 12-pack of beer later, shot each in the head.

Mullen has told family members that he was a victim of childhood sex abuse. In a letter included with his court papers, he admitted that "Murder is not a solution," but prayed that "God will see my intentions were good."

That will be hard for state Rep. Al O'Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, who worries that the killings will inspire other acts of vigilantism and give civil-rights groups reason to seek an end to citizen-notification laws.

O'Brien thinks it's wrong to list exact street addresses for registered sex offenders, but will fight any effort to stop listing them altogether.

"You have my word," O'Brien said. "I am going to put my foot down against any effort to change the law as it stands.

"It's important for communities to know who is amongst them, so they can protect their families."

In the next legislative session, O'Brien will help introduce a bill, similar to Florida's "Jessica's Law," that would require tougher sentences for first-time sex offenders and put an electronic-monitoring device on every sexual predator released into the community.

"The problem we have is the cost," O'Brien said.

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But he's not at all worried about getting support.

Consider: On the very day that Mullen was charged, a court commissioner refused to bar Issaquah from enforcing an ordinance prohibiting sex offenders from living in certain areas. Go right ahead, he said.

And O'Brien knows he can count on people like Jim Hines, 45, of Gig Harbor, Pierce County, to stand behind the bill. Hines is a businessman who began being an advocate for sexual-assault victims after a friend's daughter was molested.

Monitoring "would be safer for the offenders," Hines said. "It would be more fair to those getting on with their lives."

While he condemns the Bellingham slayings, Hines is surprised there haven't been more. And like O'Brien, he doesn't think offenders' exact addresses should be made public ("It's just a time bomb," he said.)

Still, he let loose a thought: There are 19,000 sex offenders registered in Washington state. For two to be targeted "pales in comparison to the number of kids who have been raped."

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

Let 'em pay for their own monitors.

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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