PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Could Oregon’s short list of publicly-posted sex offender names be putting your family at risk?
A FOX 12 investigation found only a limited number of offenders can be evaluated for the public list, but a majority of them aren't even eligible.
Oregon has a lot of sex offenders – in fact – the largest per capita in the country.
A report last year found for every 100,000 people, there are 688. The average among other states is just 279.
But finding out who they all are is not exactly easy.
And as FOX 12 found out, the risk of reoffending that a majority of Oregon's registered offenders pose has yet to be determined.
On a hot summer day last August, Elizabeth Buell tied the knot. Their ceremony had ended, and it was on to dancing.
But then, she says what was supposed to be the best day of her life soon turned into one of the worst.
“The videographer came up to me while I was talking to guests and he was like, ‘Um, do you know this guy over here? Because he was just taking pictures underneath your daughter’s dress,’” Buell said.
At the time, Buell’s daughter was just 9 years old.
“People are stepping on my dress, my veil, as I’m trying to chase after this guy,” she said.
Buell says she later learned that guy is 31-year-old Carl Rainey of Portland. Police arrested him for voyeurism.
She says she had never met Rainey until her wedding day.
“He wasn’t even on the original guest list,” Buell said. “He was his brother’s plus one.”
What she also didn’t know at the time is that Rainey is a sex offender – after admitting to taking photos of a mom and daughter inside a Gresham Fred Meyer dressing room.
FOX 12 found he is among roughly 26,000 other Oregon sex offenders who are still deemed “unclassified” – and therefore not posted on Oregon’s public sex offender registry.
Under current law, only the names of Level 3 offenders – deemed the highest risk to reoffend – are posted publicly. Those number 793.
But those offenders are just 2.5 percent of the state’s nearly 31,000 registered sex offenders – a majority of which have not been classified into any risk level – despite a state law passed six years ago requiring it.
Since then, Oregon legislators have delayed the deadline to classify all offenders three times.
The latest extension was just signed by the governor last month and pushes the new deadline back to December 2026.
When asked if they’ll meet it, the Oregon parole board told FOX 12, “...The board’s budget was cut for the next biennium. This will significantly impact our ability to meet any deadlines set for the historic registrant population.”
The board told FOX 12 it has to prioritize 1,000 new offenders each year, as well as those being released from prison, and “assessment and leveling system does not affect who is on the registry.”
But it does have an impact on the public’s ability to easily see who is on it.
To find out if someone is a Level 2, Level 1 or unclassified offender, you have to call or email state police and ask.
That’s exactly what FOX 12 had to do to confirm the status of sex offender Marcus Tong of Tualatin.
He has been a registered sex offender since 2009, when he was first arrested and then convicted of rape.
He was convicted again in 2013 for sex abuse, and then again for another case of sex abuse in 2017.
But today, he still isn’t listed publicly on the state’s website.
That might be because he still hasn’t been classified in light of those numerous convictions for repeatedly sexually abusing young women that have put him in and out of prison, where he is now.
When asked about her biggest frustration with the registry, Buell said, “That we don't have access to the information.”
Buell wants to see all offenders – no matter the level – be listed on the registry for everyone to see and hopes lawmakers will hear her story and act.
“If we don't know who they are or what they did, then how can we protect anybody from them?” she said.
There is currently no proposed legislation that would make Oregon’s sex offender list more easily accessible.
FOX 12 also reached out to Gov. Brown on her backing of the bill that will once again delay the deadline to classify sex offenders.
Her staff said that the governor has proposed more resources, including the hiring of five new permanent positions.
But it’s still nine fewer positions than the parole board had hoped for.
As for the offenders named in this story, Tong remains in prison, while Rainey’s court case is still pending.
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