Lawrence Trant, Jr., 56, tried to kill 8 registered sex offenders in Concord, New Hampshire. Trant set fire to a boarding house, to an apartment building and ultimately stabbed one man in the street. All of the victim's names and addresses were easily obtained by Trant through New Hampshire's sex offender registration program posted on the internet.
At approximately 4:00 a.m., on April 12, 2003, Trant poured gasoline on the entrances to a downtown rooming house and set it ablaze. Thirteen people lived in the house. Six were registered sex offenders. Eight days later, Trant set fire to the apartment of Peter Bruce, another registered sex offender. Fortunately, no one was hurt in either incident. Trant's last victim, however, was not so lucky.
Lawrence Sheridan, 34, a registered sex offender, was returning to a prison halfway house about 8:45 p.m. on Friday, April 25, after attending an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. Trant, riding a bicycle, overtook Sheridan, jumped off the bike and stabbed him with a large knife as numerous drivers and pedestrians looked on. After the attack, one driver gave Sheridan a ride to the prison which was about a mile away. It was this final act of violence that led to the capture and positive identification of Trant.
After the stabbing, a search of Trant's apartment produced a print-out of New Hampshire's sex-offender registry. Red check marks had been placed by the names of several men. Detective Michael Cassidy recognized that the men resided at the addresses that had recently been torched. Trant was subsequently charged with attempted murder and alternative first degree assault.
Trant and Sheridan knew each other, having lived in the same housing unit between 1999 and 2000. The two men also attended the same AA meeting from which Sheridan was returning. Trant said he learned to hate sex offenders while he was in prison.
Irene McCormack, director of the sex offenders program in Concord, says this attitude is not uncommon. She says that prisoners, like people on the outside, often boost their own self esteem by degrading others. She points out that, "even among sex offenders, someone might say, `Well at least I didn't offend against children,'" or "well I raped someone but at least I'm not a skinner [child molester]."
What's worse is that Trant saw himself as actually helping the police. According to Trant's former landlord Donald Chase, "The night he stabbed the guy, he came home and said he was going to work for the police department. He thought in his mind, that he was helping to get rid of pedophiles. We didn't know his history. We didn't know his background."
Trant's background includes a 3-6 year sentence for receiving stolen property, for which he was paroled July 1, 2002 and a 1980's trial in which he was acquitted of the murder of 82-year old Bertha Smith.
In defense of the state's culpability by allowing Trant easy access to his internet "hit list," Concord police Sgt. John Zbehlik says violence against sex offenders is, "not normally a situation we have here."
Attorney General Peter Heed says the public-listing of sex offenders does not result in as much violence as might be expected.
What is disturbing is that many states condone the practice even though they, like Heed, "expect" violence to be a direct result of the listing. Should we expect a "burglar's list" or a "drug dealer's" list?
Despite the fact that he is back in prison, without what amounts to a list that encourages state-sanctioned vigilantism Lawrence Trant would not have been able to carry out these crimes. At some point, society's scarlet letter attitude of unforgiveness must be weighed against the "go and sin no more" attitude of the parole system. Because a person punished twice for the same crime becomes a victim. g
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