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In wake of murders, calls for sex offender registry to go private

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

At its heart, law enforcement agencies across the country say that the sex offender registry is a great resource when used. For example, when people are moving into a neighborhood, or perhaps if they have questions about a neighbor.

"The sex offender registry is a tool, and it's a tool for both law enforcement and the general public," said Lt. Michael Hildebrand with the Greenville County Sheriff's Office. "And just like every tool, when it is used properly, it's a good thing."

But Union County deputies said that registry was used as a tool for evil.

Jeremy and Christine Moody told authorities that they targeted Charles and Gretchen Parker, because Charles was on the sex offender registry, and they were gunning for more sex offenders on the list.

Deputies said the Moodys targeted Parker, claiming he was a "child molester", but authorities said the charge that made him a sex offender in South Carolina involved an adult. According to the sex offender registry, Parker also had another case that went back to 1991, but FOX Carolina has not been able to confirm details on that case.

"I wasn't at all surprised that it happened, unfortunately," said Brenda Jones, director of the group Reform of Sex Offender Laws.

The goal of Jones' organization is to limit public sex offender registries to law enforcement, schools, and only limit informing he public of sex offenders to a 'need to know' basis.

Jones said the murders of Charles and Gretchen Parker should serve as a wake-up call on why sex offenders need protection, and argued that if registries exist, they shouldn't show exact addresses.

"It's public shaming," she said. "People have piled so many things onto it, that the environment of sex offenders, it's like continued probation."

Law enforcement maintains that the sex offender registry is a tool that is beneficial, and is largely used for informative purposes for communities, and it will likely remain that way.

Authorities are also quick to mention that just because someone is on a sex offender registry, it doesn't mean they're a child molester or a rapist.

People can be put on the list for something as little as urinating in public, which can result in a charge of indecent exposure.

"Sometimes that offense is not easily recognizable or understandable by the general public, so when you see that charge or that offense, sometimes you can twist that to make it something that it's really not," Hildebrand said.

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