The public was aware of the risks when the California Legislature adopted "Megan's Law" 11 years ago. The law lets residents know when a registered sex offender moves into the neighborhood and provides a Web site listing their names and addresses.
The risks had to do with how the public would choose to handle that information.
Now, the worst of those fears may have come true in Lakeport where a man is suspected of slaying a neighbor because he was listed as a registered sex offender on that Web site. The man, 29-year-old Ivan Garcia Oliver, told the Los Angeles Times that he took action to protect his son.
There are no heroes in this story. Oliver reportedly believed that 68-year-old Michael Dodele was a child molester because Dodele's online list of offenses included "oral copulation with a person under 14 or by force" a confusing definition at best. Dodele had recently been released after serving 20 years in prison on charges related to raping an adult woman near Jenner. His psychologist said Dodele had "served his time and was ready to get on with his life."
Now more lives have been shattered. Oliver, a construction worker and father, awaits murder charges.
It remains true that most child molestations occur behind closed doors by people whom the abused children know -- and trust. Not by strangers.
This is perhaps the greatest threat of the Megan's Law registry, its capacity to distract from the real threats that exist, sometimes with tragic outcomes.