MGN Exposing the sex offender loophole. Howard, a convicted rapist, was a registered sex offender in Escambia County, Alabama, but investigators say he was staying at the apartment complex in Florida where Naomi lived. In this Reality Check, Local 15's Andrea Ramey uncovers a loophole that allows sex offenders to travel freely and finds out how investigators keep track of them all.
It's a hot muggy Thursday morning in June, and these volunteers are checking out this shack in Irvington to make sure the 53 year old sex offender who molested a 14 year old boy is staying where he says he is. They, along with 18 other volunteers, do random spot checks of sex offenders. Today, we're following them along. When we get to this Chunchula home, a gate blocks off the driveway. If you're home please walk up to the gate," said Smith in a voicemail to the offender.
They leave a note, instructing him to check in. There are more than sex offenders in Mobile County, and in addition to the spot checks, offenders are required to check in quarterly at a kiosk at the sheriff's office. Tracking homeless offenders is a challenge. In Mobile County right now, there are at least 12 sex offenders investigators have no idea where they are.
A third of them are homeless. But in the case of Naomi Jones, the suspect Robert Howard, was considered a compliant sex offender in Alabama. In fact, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office says the day after Naomi's disappearance, Howard came to the department to do his quarterly check in. Chief Deputy Mike Lambert believes Howard was taking advantage of a loophole in Alabama's sex offender laws that allow them to be away from their homes for up to 72 hours without telling anyone.
Here's a loop hole here that allows a sex offender up to three days without reporting," said Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Pat Guyton. Guyton says it is vital we know where sex offenders are because it's estimated up to half will sexually abuse again.
Guyton believes offenders should check in if they're going to spend the night somewhere besides their registered address and report it in if they leave the state. We told local lawmakers about this loophole, and there appears to be interest in addressing this issue next legislative session.
We will follow-up to see if the laws changes.