10 Investigates: Sex Offenders Violating The Law Near Schools & Daycares
Ohio law requires registered sex offenders - who were convicted after July 2003 - to stay out of school zones. Law also prohibits many sex offenders from living near daycares. However, 10 Investigates found several offenders who seem to be violating that law.
One of them is Audie Gutierrez. He was convicted of sexual battery in 2005. 10 Investigates found him living about half a block away from Columbus' Lincoln Park Elementary school.
10 Investigates used a laser measuring device called a range finder to determine how far away Gutierrez lives. The laser revealed he lives about 564 feet away from the school, half the distance where Gutierrez should be living.
Parent Tiffany Harmon has a child attending summer school at Lincoln Park. "It makes me feel a little uncomfortable," Harmon said.
When 10TV investigative reporter Paul Aker went to his home, an apparent roommate confirmed Gutierrez lived there. However, the man said Gutierrez was "on vacation" and could not take questions.
10 Investigates also found William Tomlinson living less than 1,000 feet from a school. Tomlinson was convicted of sexual battery in 2007.
The range finder showed that Tomlinson lives about 624 feet from Medina Middle School.
Tomlinson claimed that he had permission to live near the residence. However, he was unable to explain the permission he claimed to have or how he got it.
10 Investigates also found two registered offenders convicted after 2003 living at a building near Ohio Middle school. The home is run by the non-profit group, Alvis House.
Alvis House administrator Gloria Ianucci said that the facility is exempted under state law because the building cannot be considered a residence.
"Alvis House has, in good faith, conformed with all applicable notification laws," Ianucci wrote in an email.
Still, 10 Investigates could not find any law that seemed to support Ianucci's contention. Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien did not know of any exemptions that would permit the offenders to live at the Alvis House location in question, when asked during an interview.
Other offenders appear to be unlawfully living near daycares.
24-year-old Donald Dingess is also living too close to a daycare near his south Columbus home.
Daycare teachers, such as Karen Franklin, don't like what 10 Investigates found. "With me working with children, I just find it offensive," Franklin said. "You know, with parents bring their children back and forth to school."
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office keeps tabs on offenders by registering them and tracking their locations. But deputies cannot force offenders to leave their homes. The law leaves that up to prosecutors.
"As far as I know, we are handling these cases when they're referred to us," O'Brien said. He can file a civil eviction action, but has no authority to seek criminal charges. His office takes action as soon as deputies alert him to an issue.
O'Brien did get an eviction judgment against Dingess. Still, 10 Investigates found Dingess continuing to live at the address.
"You want to talk to us about why you are living too close," Investigative Reporter Paul Aker asked Dingess. He told Aker that, following our investigation, he has decided to leave his forbidden residence.
"I'm actually going to move," Dingess said.
He claimed that he did not receive notification from the court that he was required to move. "I talked to my probation officer. He said that I did (get notice.) But I never did get anything."
O'Brien said that it would help if lawmakers made living too close a criminal offense. "I think the law does lack some teeth."
O'Brien said he's now looking into those cases of offenders living too close that he didn't already know about.
Columbus City Schools does not notify parents when offenders move close to a school. A district spokesman said that the district is not required to and other districts don't.