Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Mullen, Sex Offender Vigilante

"FBI" Comes Knocking

Hank Eisses must have sighed when he answered the knock on his door at 7 p.m. on Aug. 26 this year.

At his threshold stood a human colossus6-foot-5 and nearly 300 poundswearing a blue jogging suit and an FBI ball cap.

FBI baseball cap
FBI baseball cap

Eisses was accustomed to law enforcement scrutiny of his home, at 2825 Northwest Ave. in Bellingham, a northwest Washington mill and university town of 71,000.

But this visit would prove to be something completely different.

Eisses, 49, was a registered sex offender, as were his two roommates, Victor Vazquez, 68, and James Russell, 42.

Hank Eisses
Hank Eisses

Born in Holland but a longtime resident of Whatcom County, Wash., Eisses had pleaded guilty in 1997 to raping an adolescent boy at his home near the Canadian border on several occasions after plying him with drugs and alcohol. He spent five years in prison and underwent sex offender treatment.

Map of Washington state with Whatcom County locator
Map of Washington state with Whatcom County locator

He was released in 2002 and bought his home with help from friends at a Bellingham church. Rent from his roommates helped pay the mortgage.

Vazquez, a New York City native who had moved west, was confronted by Washington authorities in the late 1980s with allegations that he had for years sexually abused his own children, boys and girls from infancy to age 14 at the time of his arrested. He pleaded guilty and spent 11 years in prison. He, too, was released in 2002 and moved in with Eisses, whom he apparently met through sex-offender treatment.

They were joined 2003 by Russell, who had been imprisoned for nine years on a 1994 conviction for the sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl. Like Vazquez, Russell was a serial sex offender, with at least six victims, all infants or toddlers.

Their criminal histories were no secret in Bellingham.

In 1990, Washington became the first state to authorize registration and public notification about sex offenders under its Community Protection Act. The law also allows unlimited civil commitment for sexual deviants who are judged dangerous even after they have completed their full criminal sentences.

As in 46 other states, photographs of and addresses for Washington's sex offenders are readily available on various law enforcement Web sites.

The Whatcom County sheriff's site listed Eisses, Vazquez and Russell as Level III offenders, the most likely to lapse into further sexual deviance. Even a computer novice could have determined in a matter of minutes that the three men lived together at the home in the 2800 block of Northwest Avenue.

And that is what brought the giant in the FBI cap to their door.

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