From a teenager who had sex with another teen when he was living in Florida, to parents whose now-jailed son said he was fooled by an underage girl, the Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony Tuesday that the way Maine handles its sex-offender registry is ruining people’s lives.

The most heart-rending account came at the beginning of the hearing, when the mother of William Elliott, who was killed on Easter Sunday, apparently by a man out to get those listed on the sex-offender list, said the registry killed her son.

“In my opinion, he was not a pedophile. He was my son,” she said, showing the committee a picture of Elliott, age 24, who was convicted for having sex with his girlfriend before her 16th birthday.

“Their addresses should not be listed there for vigilantes to come to their home and murder them,” she said, weeping. “If you change this law, it might save lives.”

It was Elliott’s murder and that of Joseph Gray of Milo which prompted the review of the registry here. Both were shot by a man, who got their addresses from the sex-offender registry on the Internet. Police have never determined just what made Stephen Marshall of Canada go after the two Maine men on April 16, because he killed himself when police closed in on him.

But the murders have promoted legislators to look at how the state handles listings, as compared to other states, and whether there should be different reporting on offenders depending on their crime. In Massachusetts, for example, the lowest-level offenders are on a list that is not publicized, but can be accessed by police and the court system.

Sen. William Diamond, D-Cumberland County, explained to those packed into the hearing room, that Maine has to keep an offender registry.

“We do not have the option of not having a sex-offender registry. It’s a federal law,” he said.

What the committee is trying to determine is whether there’s a better way of doing it. It will make a recommendation within a month for the next Legislature to consider.

William Thurber, age 31, of Waldo, said he was an example of what can happen to a teenager who has sex with another teen, and is then haunted through adulthood by his conviction.

Thurber pled no contest in Florida to lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16 – a plea the court accepted with no finding of guilt. The girl involved in the incident was reportedly 15 at the time and Thurber was 19. He was then put on the registry when he moved to Maine.

“I’m a skilled welder and a commercial trucker. I can’t find work. I’m on welfare,” he said. “This is a lifelong sentence that leaves you little hope and no future.”

Michael Bean of York, who pled guilty to gross sexual assault when he was a school teacher in 1987 and got involved with a 16- and 17-year-old girl, said he served time in prison, lost his teaching certificate and then went back to school to get certified as a counselor.

Married now with two young children, he said when Maine changed its law to go back another 10 years to require offenders to report, he was required to be on the list and report to local police for life.

“I don’t know how long it takes or what people have to do to show they are rehabilitated,” Bean said, but “going back the extra 10 years has turned my life upside down.”

He said his picture is now on the “wall of shame” in the York Police Department, he is losing contracts for his counseling work and he and his wife are considering a separation.

Not all on the committee were sympathetic to his story, however,

“You could have received a 40-year sentence,” said Sen. Dean Clukey, R-Aroostook, a retired state policeman. “It seems like you should be very glad. It’s possible you could still be in jail.”

Stephen and Mary Perry of Raymond called for a change in the registry that would not put all offenders and their names and addresses on the Internet. They said their son had been a victim of a girl who lied about her age.

“I’m strongly opposed to the sex-offender registry as it exists,” said Mary Perry, because it gives out names, addresses and places of work of offenders to “terrorists, vigilante zealots and the criminally and otherwise insane.”

She suggested a registry that would only be kept by local police and would only be shown to people who contact police and identify themselves.

Rep. Larry Jacobsen, R-Waterboro, said his town was in the forefront on the issue because a man “who raped and beat a 10-year-old girl and left her for dead in the woods” had moved in.

“We need to keep that kind of person in jail,” he said, “He should not be out.”

But for other people, whose crimes are less serious, there should be a different system.

“People makes mistakes,” he said. “They’re not all sick.”

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