Sex Offender Secrets: A CBS47 News Investigation
Celine McArthur/Chief Investigative Reporter
For 28 year old Amanda Campbell, dragging out the big box of old pictures is agonizing.
While she looks like a happy kid in her photo albums, she says the snapshots are deceptive.
"If they were to tell the truth, the whole story, I wouldn't be smiling in 90 percent of these," says Amanda.
That includes one taken when she was five. It was taken just about the time she was raped by her Uncle Pat.
"He took my childhood away... He took my virginity away," says Amanda.
As punishment, Patrick Henry Waters was sentenced to four years in prison in 1987. However, you won't find him on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's sex offender registry. Waters served his time before Megan's Law was enacted in 1997. That's the one that requires convicted sex offenders and predators to register with police for the rest of their lives.
"We can't go back and ex-post-facto, change the law that existed 20 or 30 years ago," says Alan Mizrhai, Division Chief, Special Assault Division, State Attorney's Office.
That means, you can't know for sure if a rapist or child molester lives in your neighborhood.
"There are a lot of them like that," says Major Gary Seay, Union County Sheriff's Office.
Major Gary Seay with the Union County Sheriff's Office says he tries to keep an eye out on these criminals - including Waters - but admits the community can't rely on that to stay safe.
"As far as him living in this neighborhood, it doesn't bother me, says Bobby Mane.
Bobby Mane isn't bothered because he's Water's cousin and says he doesn't feel threatened. However, Mane's wife, Gerelene, runs an in-house baby sitting service and admits that those babies have contact with Waters!
Here's a transcript of that conversation:
Celine: "What do the parents think?
Gerelene: "Uh, the parents, I've never discussed it with them."
Celine: "Do you think you should?"
Gerelene: "They would trust me. They would trust me to protect their kids."
That's a potentially dangerous safety call. A safety call, Amanda says can make it tempting for Waters - or others who've committed sex crimes - to strike again. Especially when no one's paying close attention.
"If you enjoy it, you're going to keep doing and doing it," says Amanda.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, our FOX30 Offender Alert partner, agrees.
"If you look at the statistics, they do re-offend on a higher percentage and that's what is concerning," says Dominick Pape, Special Agent in Charge, FDLE.
That's why Amanda contacted Governor Charlie Crist. She wrote him a letter, and got a reply from his staff. It says she should take this matter up with her local senator or representative. Not the answer she was hoping for, so she came to us.
"I'm just glad and happy and relieved that we're doing this because I am ready. Someone needs to take a stand."
We attempted to talk to Waters for our story, but his family would not let that happen.
You can read more about Florida's sex offender laws and the registry, at the links below.
FDLE Sex Offender Registryhttp://www.fdle.state.fl.us/
FDLE Registration & Notification Procedureshttp://www.fdle.state.fl.us/ogc/legal_bulletins/lb9702_8-22.html
Alan Mizrhai's explanation of sex offender law change:
"The sexual offender law was passed in 1993 and it applies only to people who were convicted after 1993 that were sexual predators, and after 1997 for sexual offenders. So, if a person was convicted before those years, they would not be on that database."
"There is a grandfather clause. If a person was released from prison after 1997 and would be a sexual predator, he would be classified as a sexual offender, even though he was convicted before these laws were in place... If a person was released before 1997, they would not be registered."
Mizrhai adds, "I think parents and people in the community need to be vigilant in taking care of their children, without looking at websites.... The communuity needs to be an advocate for children. If they see people they know have a past, they should not allow them around children. If we catch them doing something, obviously we're going to use the laws in place today to make sure they don't hurt anymore children."