To Name Or Not To Name?

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In the Feb. 16 issue of the Roundup, a story appeared about a 28-year-old man from Mesa del Caballo who was arrested on suspicion of molesting five children.

Since the story ran, we have received a number of telephone calls from concerned parents and community leaders who questioned our omission of the man's name from the news article.

Generally, it is our policy to withhold the names of individuals suspected of sex crimes unless there is a conviction.

Over the years, the Roundup has handled more than its share of crime stories -- stories about arson, bank robbery and even murder. Most of the time, law enforcement officers have substantial evidence to swear out warrants for their suspects -- fingerprints on a can of lighter fluid, a bank surveillance tape, a smoking gun.

Allegations of sexual misconduct or the molestation of a child can be more difficult to prove. Often, it's the child's word against the suspect's, and in at least one case in Payson, the suspect was falsely accused and later exonerated.

While it has been reported that this latest suspect confessed to the crimes, we have not yet viewed the video-taped confession, nor have we received any other official documents to confirm this.

Like you, we are sickened by this or any type of crime against our precious children. But truth can be clouded and minds closed when an offense of this nature is suspected. This policy and others help us navigate the course of responsible journalism.

Teachers, den mothers, counselors and youth volunteers understand this and all live with the frightening knowledge that just one accusation could place them in the cold judgment of the public.

We will continue to follow this story and obtain the information we need to determine whether an exception to our reporting policy is justified. Until then, if you are concerned about your child's welfare, and want to know the identity of the suspect, contact the sheriff's department at 474-2208.

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