PRESTONSBURG — A massive sex offender spot-check this month has yielded 22 arrests in seven Eastern Kentucky counties.
Sheriff’s offices and police departments from Floyd, Pike, Johnson, Martin, Knott, Perry and Letcher counties teamed with the U.S. Marshals Service to physically check the whereabouts of 276 registered sex offenders living in the region, to ensure they were in compliance with registration requirements.
The result: Two of every 25 arrested.
The enforcement action, dubbed “Operation Big Sandy,” sought to confirm whether registered sex offenders in the region were in compliance, not only with requirements to keep the state informed of their current addresses, but also whether they were following other guidelines, such as restrictions on weapons, social media accounts and children living in the home.
U.S. Marshal Loren “Squirrel” Carl said local police agencies were instrumental in making the operation successful. He credited their commitment to working together to make their communities safer.
“As you can see this morning as we gather here, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing brown, blue, gray, black or whatever the color of the uniform, we’re all working together to help protect our children and the future that they have,” Carl said.
Of the 22 arrests, nine sex offenders were charged with noncompliance with registration requirements, because they were not living at their registered addresses. Two sex offenders were charged with violating social media restrictions by opening Facebook accounts.
Two sex offenders were arrested for having weapons in their possession, with five guns being seized. Two more were determined be fugitives from other states and were arrested on warrants.
Four sex offenders were arrested for offenses that were unrelated to their registration requirements, while one person who is not a sex offender was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.
Two offenders could not be located and are now being considered fugitives who are out of compliance with their registration requirements. They are Jason Carl Wheeler, 35, whose last known address was Meally, in Johnson County, and Bryan Patrick Williams, 33, whose last known address was Kite, in Knott County. Wheeler was convicted of second-degree sodomy of a 12-year-old child. Williams was convicted in North Carolina of indecent liberties with a 15-year-old victim.
Carl said all sex offenders are aware of their registration requirements and they can expect legal troubles if they do not abide by them. And while Operation Big Sandy serves as a high-profile attempt to confirm the registration of sex offenders in one fell swoop, the effort will continue indefinitely.
“These people are registered sex offenders, and if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’re going to come get them and we’re going to charge them,” Carl said. “The United States Marshals Service has taken this task on under the Adam Walsh Act, and we’re going all across the United States, in every county and every city, and we’re going to check on every registered sex offender that there is.”
Martin County Sheriff Garmon Preece said the operation was necessary because, while all of the offenders had completed their jail sentences, some did not appear to have reformed their ways.
“We had nine [registered sex offenders] and three were out of compliance, and it don’t seem like they cared,” Preece said. “They knew the penalty, they knew they was breaking the law, and it didn’t bother them a bit to do what they were doing.”
In Floyd County, officers checked the reported residences of 52 offenders. Six were ultimately arrested, either for being out of compliance or other violations. They include:
• Danny Ray Akers, 31, of Galveston, arrested on a warrant.
• Roby Chaffins, 42, of Lackey, arrested for failure to comply with sex offender registration and felon in possession of a handgun.
• Larry Don Combs, 46, of Goble Branch, arrested for failure to comply with sex offender registration.
• Bobby Joe Crum, 47, of Martin, failure to comply with sex offender registration.
• Richard E. Martin, 31, of Spurlock, arrested on four bench warrants, including one alleging noncompliance with school zone restrictions.
• Silas Slone, 74, of Garrett, arrested on four counts of felon in possession of a firearm and one count of felon in possession of a handgun.
Floyd County Sheriff John K Blackburn said things his deputies discovered during the operation underscore the necessity of continuing to monitor individuals convicted of sex crimes.
“We caught a sex offender in bed with a juvenile,” Blackburn said. “And also we caught another sex offender in a home with two more children. We had to climb through the window to catch him, and then he hid between two mattresses.
“But we finally got him.”
Perry County Chief Deputy Tony Eversole said the Marshals Service’s assistance in tracking down all of the registered sex offenders was invaluable.
“We had 47 individuals that we checked, and that’s why we’re thankful to the Marshal’s Service, actually to bring it to attention,” Eversole said. “We done all that in less than two days, and we had about eight people that participated in that, from two different agencies.”
Prestonsburg Police Chief Mike Ormerod said the community can help police ensure that sex offenders are complying with registration requirements.
“There’s a statewide database of sex offenders that they can check online, and I would encourage people, when someone new moves into their community, maybe to take a look at it, look at it occasionally, and if there’s someone they think is on the sex offender database, let us know that they moved into the area,” Ormerod said. “That would be a big help to us.”
The Kentucky Sex Offender Registry, which also has a link to the National Sex Offender Registry, can be found online at http://kspsor.state.ky.us/.
Blackburn said his office takes seriously its duty to monitor sex offenders because of how damaging the crime is.
“Some sex offenders don’t realize how bad a crime it is, but anytime a child has been abused, it’s really bad,” Blackburn said. “One of the worst things you can do in life is abuse a child.”