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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sex offender registry now necessary

Monday, August 20, 2007

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles regarding Indiana's sex offender registry and how it affects the community.

Polly Klaas, Elizabeth Smart, Samantha Runnion, Jessica Lunsford and Natalie Holloway were all victims of sex offenders. Making national headlines, their names and faces are etched into the social consciousness by the tragedy connected to their cases.

A 10-year old boy from Cloverdale is also one of those names. Zachary Snider was sexually assaulted and murdered by Christopher Stevens.

In February 1993, Christopher Stevens, 20, a convicted child molester, was released from police custody and placed on a three-year term of probation before moving into his father's residence in the same Cloverdale subdivision where 10-year old Snider lived.

Stevens began a friendship with Snider despite objections by the boy's father. In spring 1993, Snider was reported missing after visiting a young friend's home.

As volunteers searched for the missing boy, Stevens confessed to killing Zachary to hide that he had been having sexual relations with the boy for approximately two or three months.

During later interviews with psychologists, Stevens confessed to molesting 25 to 30 other children.

In March 1995, Stevens was placed on death row following his conviction for the murder. After 12 years on death row and several appeals, Stevens' death sentence was recently commuted to life imprisonment.

Tormented by Zachary's death and wanting to protect other children, his family lobbied for a law that would require information be made available to the public about sex offenders living in their area.

Zachary's Law was passed by the Indiana Legislature and became effective on Jan. 1, 2003. It requires that all sex offenders released from incarceration register with the local sheriff's department in the community where they will live, work, attend school or visit for more than three days.

According to information provided by the Indiana Dept. of Correction, which registers sex offenders upon their release from incarceration, there are more than 8,000 registered sex offenders in the state.

The Indiana Sheriff's Association Sex Offender Registry, which maintains the local information, has 42 registered sex offenders listed for Clay County.

"Sex offenders are a part of society," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "They work in a variety of different jobs and live in all kinds of neighborhoods. People need to understand that a sex offender could be anyone."

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