tampabay.com

Men on offender registry sought

An alert to find the sex offenders is part of the sheriff's efforts to build public awareness in light of the Jessica Lunsford and the Sarah Lunde cases.

By DUANE BOURNE
Published April 22, 2005


BROOKSVILLE - Responding to calls to aggressively monitor sex offenders and predators living in the community, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office on Thursday issued a bulletin for 11 sex offenders who have dropped out of sight. The men are listed as absconders on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sexual predator and offender registry.

The department is asking the public's help in locating the sexual offenders, who have active warrants for their arrests. They include two men, who are under the supervision of the Department of Parole and Probation but failed to comply with the terms of their sexual offender probation, said Deputy Donna Black, the sheriff's spokeswoman.

Two of the men included in the initial bulletin, Michael Ignatowski, 43, and Ronald J. Sweeney, are now in custody in other states, Black said. Ignatowski was arrested in New York last week, while Sweeney, 53, was apprehended in Massachusetts.

One sex offender, Douglas S. Doria, 39, is believed to be in Cancun, Mexico, while Michael A. Giles, 63, is believed to have moved to Ohio, according to the bulletin.

Several of the suspects, including Jamie K. Brown, 42, were released from jail and never registered, the bulletin said. Meanwhile others, including Christopher Bulman, 25, and Clarence Demons, 35, are not at the local addresses they provided.

The stepped-up effort comes in the wake of the Jessica Lunsford case and moves in Washington and Tallahassee to get tougher on convicted sex offenders.

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Crystal River, is pushing legislation threatening states with losing federal funds for law enforcement programs if they do not implement sexual offender registries.

The Florida House passed the Jessica Lunsford Act calling for harsher punishment and electronic monitoring for people convicted of molesting children. Convicted sex offender John Couey is accused of abducting and killing the 9-year-old Homosassa girl.

Thursday's alert was part of the sheriff's efforts to build public awareness and to monitor sex offenders, Black said.

The sex offenders who dropped out of sight were being tracked through the department's Sexual Predator and Offender Tracking program, or SPOT.

Most of them, according to Black, have failed to comply with the requirements of their release, such as alerting authorities of any change in address. None of the men currently being sought by authorities are sexual predators, a classification used to identify repeat offenders and those who use violence and prey on children.

"That does not take away from the need to find them," Black said. "As illustrated in the last two cases where the deaths of children occurred, the suspects are all sexual offenders," said Black, referring to the Lunsford case and the suspected murder of 13-year-old Sarah Lunde by a convicted sex offender. "We want to notify the public that sexual offenders are being actively pursued by law enforcement," Black added.

The Sheriff's Office monitors 101 of the 224 locally registered offenders and predators through the SPOT program, a labor intensive approach to track nonsupervised sexual offenders and notify residents of their whereabouts.

In light of the Lunsford and the Lunde cases, several Florida law enforcement agencies have taken steps to monitor sexual offenders and predators in their jurisdictions.

This week, the Zephyrhills Police Department tracked down 21 sexual offenders in the city to determine whether they were abiding by the terms of their release. One was charged with failing to register as a sex offender.

But Hernando officials think the first part of the equation is public awareness.

"The more that we talk about it the better understanding people have," Black said of the push to find the absconders. "We want them all off the streets."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Duane Bourne can be reached at 352 754-6114 or dbourne@sptimes.com