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Keeping track of sex offenders puts strain on police resources

Kacie Breeding • Jul 11, 2012 at 11:13 AM

KINGSPORT — The case of a registered child sex offender in Kingsport accused of rape and abuse of his infant child and residing with his girlfriend’s other children highlights a source of frustration for local law enforcement tasked with keeping tabs on offenders.

Shawn Lee Wray, 27, 404 Barnett Drive, Lot 47, was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to aggravated child rape, aggravated child abuse and two registry violations Wednesday in Kingsport General Sessions Court. According to court records, Holston Valley Medical Center staff examined the infant Monday and found a severe skull fracture, broken arm and signs of sexual trauma.

Court records state Wray called the child’s mother at work Monday afternoon to say the child’s head had hit a wall. Two hours later, the mother arrived home to find the infant’s head “severely swollen” and took the child to the hospital.

Wray has two prior alleged registry violation charges pending in Sullivan County Criminal Court.

Wray is on the Tennessee Sexual Offender Registry and barred from living with minors other than his own children due to a March 31, 2006, conviction on aggravated sexual assault of a child in Montgomery County, Texas.

According to Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Emily Smith, in Tennessee child sex offenders may live with their own children unless they have been convicted of a sexual offense against one of them, or their parental rights have been or are being terminated.

Kingsport Police Department Detective Ed Ragsdale said he monitored Wray and the rest of Kingsport’s registered sex offenders up until about December of 2011 or January of this year.

“We had close to 54,” Ragsdale said, adding that the problem was, “You know, I can’t check 54 people every day, 365 days a year.”

Ragsdale estimated checking in on that many people every single day would take “at least five or six” officers “working straight through.”

Since that’s not an option, Ragsdale said he always tried to keep the closest watch on the likeliest troublemakers.

“If somebody appears that they’re going to be trouble, we’re not going to monkey around with that. We’re going to continue to check them and look at their situation,” he said.

“If we’ve got somebody that we feel might not be adhering to the rules that they have to follow, we’ll definitely keep a much closer eye on them, and I had several through my time with that. And, you know, Shawn was one of those that we would watch a little closer,” he said.

Ragsdale said he counted on the public to help him keep track of offenders.

“Thankfully, the public keeps a good eye as to who is around them and will look on that (the registry) Web site, which I think is a fantastic thing, to see if they’re a sex offender.”

Ragsdale said it was he who found Wray living with a girlfriend and the woman’s two-month-old son in Lee Apartments, 650 E. Sevier Ave., Apt. 128, with court records indicating that offense allegedly occurred between July 23, 2011, and Aug. 23, 2011. The apartment is located within 1,000 feet of New Horizons Alternative School, 520 Myrtle St., prompting a second alleged violation. Those are the violations currently pending in criminal court.

The responsibility of monitoring Kingsport’s registered sex offenders was transferred to KPD Detective Toby Wells shortly after Wray’s indictment last November, either in December or January, Ragsdale said. Wells could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ragsdale said the state requires one home visit per year to check whether child sex offenders are living with minors. He said he couldn’t speak for Wells, but said he usually popped in on offenders one to three more times throughout the year, or sent a patrol officer by the offender’s registered address. In addition to those random checks, Ragsdale said he always followed up on tips from the public, such as a report that a child sex offender is living with unrelated children.

Ragsdale noted that, prior to finding Wray in Lee Apartments, he had received information that Wray was living with unrelated children, and a home check failed to show that was the case.

If convicted of all currently pending offenses, Wray faces a minimum of 40 years behind bars.

According to Smith, aggravated child rape is a Class A felony that carries a potential sentence of 40 to 60 years, with 100 percent service required. She advised aggravated child abuse is a Class B felony that, by law, carries the same punishment as a standard Class A felony — a minimum of 15 to 25 years — when the victim is less than 8 years of age.

The registry violations are Class E felonies. By law, a first violation carries a minimum 90-day jail term and $350 fine. A second violation carries a minimum 180-day jail term and $600 fine, and third or subsequent violations require a minimum of one year behind bars and payment of a $1,100 fine.

The judge would decide the issue of concurrent vs. consecutive sentencing, Smith advised.

Wray is scheduled for a July 17 appearance on the sessions court cases. In criminal court, Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Julie Canter said Wednesday she has filed a motion to have Wray’s bond revoked. She said she hopes to get a hearing scheduled in the next few days.

In the meantime, Wray remains jailed on a $100,000 bond.

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