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Sex offender registry keeps KCSO busy

Part 1 of 2

Posted: April 5, 2012 4:35 p.m.
Updated: April 6, 2012 5:00 a.m.

In its weekly law enforcement reports, the Chronicle-Independent sometimes publishes cases of sex offenders failing to register on the S.C. Sex Offender Registry or inform law enforcement of their movements. Until now, the C-I has not published the names of these “non-compliant” sex offenders. Effective with this story, the C-I will begin publishing the names and other vital information of wanted non-compliant sex offenders whenever they appear in our weekly reports.

The Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) is looking for Rodney Cornelius Hough. The 36-year-old man failed to let the sheriff’s office know he moved from his last known address on Chesnut Street, right on the western edge of Camden’s city limits near Boykin Park.

Since 1998, Hough has had to check in with the KCSO at least once a year since being released from prison and registering as a sex offender in South Carolina.

South Carolina’s sex offender registry law went into effect in July 1994. Legislators have amended it, most recently in 2010. Where offenders used to have to check in with their county sheriff’s office once a year during the month of their birth, offenders now have to check in at least twice, if not four times a year, depending on the severity of their crime.

According to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division’s (SLED) sex offender registry information, Hough was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in October 1997. As such, he is required to check in with the KCSO on a quarterly basis. Online Kershaw County Clerk of Court records indicate Hough, then 18, was arrested in September 1994 and pleaded guilty the following January to second degree criminal sexual conduct. A circuit court judge sentenced him to 12 years in prison and a $300 fine, suspended upon a $250 fine and five years of probation.

Notice the difference in when SLED and online court records say Hough pleaded guilty. The KCSO’s Beverly Brevard, whose title is simply Sex Offender Registrar, said Offender Watch -- the online database SLED uses to track sex offenders -- is still being tweaked. Conflicting information like Hough’s keeps Brevard and KCSO deputies on their toes.

According to a recent KCSO report, deputies obtained a warrant for Hough’s arrest after they learned he failed to notify Brevard that he moved from the Chesnut Street address. Brevard confirmed what SLED’s online records show: Hough last checked in with her in September 2010. With the changes in the law, he should have checked in with Brevard again in December 2010; March, June, September and December 2011; and last month.

Brevard said the ripples created by the 2010 amendments to the law contributed to only now issuing a warrant for Hough’s arrest. That’s because it’s taken this long for her to reorganize her files from the old annual system to the new biannual/quarterly one. She was lworking on her last four files Wednesday afternoon. Next, she plans to go through each file -- all 189 of them -- and make sure what’s on Offender Watch is accurate.

“He’s probably still around,” Brevard said of Hough.

Court records show this isn’t the first time Hough has either failed to register as a sex offender or notified Brevard of her whereabouts. Hough is a particularly interesting case to Brevard and Sheriff Jim Matthews.

Court records show Hough has also pleaded to or been convicted for burglary, negligent use of firearms, grand larceny, drug possession, disturbing schools and unlawful neglect of a child, not to mention indecent exposure.

Hough is someone KCSO deputies would like to get their hands on, at least to be sure of his whereabouts. An example of how dangerous he might be is shown in a September 2009 incident report.

A deputy noticed Hough walking south on the northbound side of East DeKalb Street around 8:45 a.m. one day that month. The deputy caught up with Hough, got out and began talking with him and asked him if there were any outstanding warrants against him. Hough said there weren’t, but a quick check revealed he was wanted on a family court bench warrant. When the deputy went to handcuff him, Hough resisted and a struggle ensued. Hough was able to slide into the driver’s seat of the deputy’s patrol car, put it in drive and take off. The deputy jumped inside the vehicle on top of Hough as the patrol car began traveling across traffic on U.S. 1. The deputy jerked the steering wheel and managed to turn the car back around toward where he first stopped Hough. He then slammed the transmission into park, which stopped the car. When Hough tried to start the patrol car up again, the deputy got assistance from a civilian. The deputy tried to use a Taser on the Hough’s left leg, but nothing happened. He finally managed to handcuff Hough and took him to KershawHealth for an evaluation and then to jail.

Other offenders

Brevard said she has three or four other offenders with warrants out for their arrests. In one case, there’s very little chance she will ever see the offender again.

Harold Leo Sanders, 51, whose last known address was on Roberts Road near Elgin, isn’t even in South Carolina.

“I know where he is. He’s on a reservation in Pennsylvania,” Brevard said, adding that Sanders is properly registered with the state of Pennsylvania.

But Sanders never notified the KCSO he was moving there and, therefore, is still in violation of South Carolina law.

Sanders pleaded guilty to indecent exposure in January 1998 after being arrested in June 1996. A judge sentenced him to two years in prison suspended upon the six months he had already served and two years’ probation.

Brevard confirmed Sanders is the Kershaw County sex offender “missing” the longest. From SLED’s Offender Watch entry, it appears Sanders may have never checked in after being released from jail.

In 2011, the C-I reported four instances where sex offenders failed to notify the KCSO they had moved from their last known address. Brevard said it was possible there were more.

In May 2011, a warrant was issued for a 46-year-old sex offender who failed to provide a change of address. Deputies went to the offender’s last known address and learned that it actually belonged to his parents and that he had not lived there since getting out of prison. It was not immediately clear when the offender was released from prison.

Also last May, a 26-year-old Kershaw man failed to register as a sex offender.

In early September 2011, the C-I learned that a 38-year-old registered sex offender had 30 days to move from the home he was sharing with his girlfriend located adjacent to a county middle school. Deputies learned the man lied about where he was living, listing his mother’s home in Fairfield County. At the home, deputies spoke to the man’s girlfriend who initially claimed he was not there. However, the man revealed himself and admitted he lied about his residency. After seeking treatment at a hospital, the man agreed to move from the Kershaw County address and return to his mother’s home in Fairfield County.

Later last September, deputies discovered a 46-year-old registered sex offender convicted in 1992 out of New Hampshire moved from his last known address in Kershaw County without notification. New Hampshire records indicated the man was convicted of felonious sexual assault of a juvenile between the ages of 13 and 16. The man’s criminal history also indicates previous offenses of failing to report, probation violations, bail jumping, manufacturing a controlled substance, interference with custody and theft by unauthorized taking.

This February proved to be one of Brevard’s busier months for tracking wayward sex offenders. Three convicted sex offenders either failed to notify her they moved -- or failed to register altogether. Brevard said deputies decided to rescind a warrant against one of the men; his story will not be included.

The first case involved 47-year-old George King. KCSO deputies first arrested King in January for failing to register. Statewide jail records show King was released from detention centers in Kershaw and Aiken counties on the same day, Jan. 11. According to Offender Watch, King was convicted in March 1998 for committing, or attempting to commit, a lewd act on a child under the age of 16. The KCSO reported King failed to check in again in February and obtained a warrant for his arrest. Sheriff Matthews said they were successful in finding King.

“He’s in prison now, sentenced to 366 days in jail for failing to report,” Matthews said.

First offenses of failing to register or providing required notifications are punishable with sentences of no more than the 366 days King received and/or fined $1,000. Second offenses are also punishable with sentences of up to 366 days, but cannot be suspended and offenders are not eligible for probation. Third and subsequent offenses are considered felonies and are punishable by a mandatory five years, three of which may not be suspended and probation cannot be granted.

In the other case, deputies went to Charm Hill Road in Lugoff  looking for 66-year-old James Augusta Harris but were told he no longer lived there. Brevard confirmed Harris was convicted out of Richmond, Va., for rape in March 1991.

“The U.S. Marshals Service is helping us look for him,” Brevard said.

As the KCSO’s registrar, Brevard has the ability to pretty much click on a button in the Offender Watch database and request help from Marshals.

Even though the number of missing Kershaw County offenders is low, involving Marshals shows how serious the KCSO is about recovering men and women who have violated the law.

Offender Watch has no information on Harris, something Brevard said she is investigating.

Anyone with information on unregistered offenders is urged to call the KCSO at 425-1512.

(Coming Monday: the fact that most offenders comply, and how you can track offenders yourself.)

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