Sheriff: Sex offenders must abide by rules

At least 15 of Cole County’s 126 registered sex offenders are complying with Missouri’s sex offender law, Sheriff Greg White said Monday in a news release.

On Saturday, White had Cole County reserve deputies contact 21 of the 126 offenders, to verify the information the offenders previously reported to White’s office.

State law requires offenders to register within three days of a conviction or plea, then regularly update their information with the county’s chief law enforcement officer.

When necessary, the sheriff’s office than shares that information with other law agencies, such as local police departments.

Registered sex offenders also must advise the sheriff, within three days, of any moves, employment or change-in-employment status, and attendance at an educational institution.

In addition to the other rules, offenders convicted after July 2004 cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility.

White said the deputies on Saturday verified the 15 offenders’ personal information previously reported during the required registration or update visits, including residency, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, vehicles, jobs and employer, and emergency contacts information.

White said in the news release that investigations were continuing on the six people the deputies weren’t able to contact.

He said Monday in a follow-up e-mail that some of those six had not been home Saturday, and were contacting the sheriff’s office on Monday.

“This does not eliminate the requirement that offenders register, but it validates what they have reported — and they now know, they will be checked,” White said.

The contacts were part of an ongoing effort “to verify the complete registry,” the sheriff said.

He said effort was prompted, in part, by an incident in Poplar Bluff last Oct. 24, when Abigail Bertholf, 5, was abducted from her home by Jeffrey Shelton, 46.

“In light of the Fall 2012 abduction by a registered sex offender in Poplar Bluff, Cole County wants to proactively monitor potential problems,” White said. “Fortunately,” White said, “the (Poplar Bluff) girl and suspect were located without incident.”

White said the public can see information about Cole County’s (and Missouri’s) sex offenders online, at www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/PatrolDivisions/CRID/SOR/SORPage.html.

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