Why isn't the Department of Corrections posting sex offender mug shots?

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

The Washington state Department of Corrections website removed dozens of mugshots of sex offenders wanted for violating their parole.

KIRO 7 discovered the photos’ removal because KIRO 7 used to share the photos via Facebook and kiro7.com galleries. The mugshot galleries received hundreds of thousands of views.

After months of inquiries, the DOC posted a new ‘wanted’ page that included not only wanted sex offenders but also other wanted offenders who have been convicted of crimes and disappeared on parole.

But the new page has no photos at all.

The change has the head of King County’s Sexual Assault Resource Center “surprised."

“Having those pictures there just makes sense,” Executive Director of the center Mary Ellen Stone said. “This person's clearly demonstrated that they're willing to hurt other people-- and that-- no one knows where they are. That is profoundly upsetting for victims.”

Stone said the lack of transparency is “troubling,” especially for a state that was one of the first in the country to come up with what she calls “groundbreaking” sex offender notification laws.

“It doesn’t look good for government organizations or for elected officials to say ‘No, we’re not going to provide this,’ or to be really vague,” she said. “And again, timelines change. We all understand that. But provide something more specific.”

Despite multiple requests from KIRO 7, the Department of Corrections refused any interviews on the change. A spokesperson told KIRO 7 that the website had to be redone to become ADA compliant and a press release stated that the “agency plans to add a photo function to the page.” But when KIRO 7 asked about the launch date and timeline for adding those photos, the spokesperson emailed back, saying, “There is not a timeline at present.”

“How much do you really want someone if you won’t even post their photograph?” asked attorney Mike Stewart.

Stewart is representing Maggie Walker, who lost her right leg after Rachel Lynn Stanton, in a minivan, crashed into Walker, who was driving her Ford Mustang.

Walker was driving northbound on East Valley Highway in Sumner on November 6th, 2013. Stanton was driving southbound on that same highway, under the influence of meth, when she collided with Walker’s vehicle.

Now Walker, who once traveled the world and ran her own travel agency, must use specialized bus service to get around in her wheelchair. Stanton pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and avoided a trial. According to the DOC, she was released in August of 2015 and then disappeared while on parole. That means she's not getting mandatory drug testing or drug treatment.

“Are you concerned about her driving, about her using meth again?” KIRO 7’s Linzi Sheldon asked Walker.

“Definitely,” she said. “Without question… so she's not back out on the road again and possibly hitting someone else.”

Stanton is one of hundreds of people who served time for crimes including murder, robbery, and sexual offenses and are now wanted for violating parole. Their names and descriptions are on the Department of Corrections' new webpage, but their photos are not. That includes Stanton’s.

KIRO 7 requested the photo and for the first time, Walker saw the woman who put her in this wheelchair. Because the case had not gone to a trial, she had never seen Stanton’s face before.

“Wanted posters have been around forever,” Stewart, said, “and they all have one component-- they show a picture.”

The new webpage, and the DOC’s statement that it “plans to add a photo function,” are not acceptable for Republican Senator Mark Miloscia.

“An intention is not a commitment,” he said. “It should be mandatory.”

So without seeing a person's face, how helpful is a description of their eye color, their height, or their weight?

“That's not going to help anybody identify this person,” he said.

After learning of the change from KIRO 7, Miloscia said he plans to introduce a bill making these photos mandatory.

“You need to have those pictures on the web,” Miloscia said. “Why are we hiding people that are escaping from the criminal justice system?”

Maggie Walker is trying to move on, but she and her attorney Mike Stewart would like to see Rachel Stanton arrested and go through the drug treatment the courts required.

“Let's not let there be another Maggie Walker out there who has to suffer what Maggie's had to go through,” Stewart said.

They say if the webpage is truly going to do all the good it could, it should have Stanton's photo posted, right along with the crime she committed.

“She was on meth when she hit me,” Walker said. “God knows, unless she gets it taken care of, she's probably going to be out there again possibly.”

To review the Department of Correction’s new list of wanted criminals, you can visit the DOC website at www.doc.wa.gov/information/secretarys-warrants.htm

If you have experienced sexual assault and need support, or you would like more information about sexual violence, call the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center’s 24-hour Resource Line at 888.99.VOICE or visit our website at www.kcsarc.org