Earlier this year, an Oklahoma man convicted of sexually molesting a young girl moved next door to her after completing his prison sentence. The victim, now 21, called lawmakers and got the sex offender removed, but there is a legal loophole in many states that allows sexual predators to move close to their victims.
New York Post reports that Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia are among the few states that have laws set in place that require sex offenders to live at least 1,000 to 2,000 feet or more away from victims’ homes. In Oklahoma, no such law existed for residential homes, although there are laws requiring predators to stay away from schools, churches, day care centers, and parks.
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The rest of the states also have no set restrictions in place on how close sex offenders can live to their victims. However, most other states, similar to Oklahoma, have laws in place to keep predators away from schools, parks, and other places with “child safety zones.” While these laws help keep predators away from public places, it doesn’t help much if predators move next door to their victims.
“You assume it can’t happen and then realize there is no provision preventing it from happening,” Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard said. “To have even the possibility of an offender living next to the victim is extremely troubling.”
Although Oklahoma covered the legal loophole after convicted sex offender, Harold Dwayne English, moved next to his victim, Danyelle Dyer, this can easily happen again to other victims who live in states with legal loopholes that allow predators to live in their neighborhoods.
When Dyer learned English was living next to her, she took out a restraining order on him, then posted his name and mugshot on her Facebook page, announcing that a sexual predator lived next door. Eventually, the laws in Oklahoma changed and English was made to leave the neighborhood.
“Meet my abuser and my new neighbor,” wrote on her Facebook page. “He has been asked to leave but in Oklahoma he can legally reside there. Surely Oklahoma can do better than this.”
Experts state that people in other states can also help close the legal loophole by speaking out against it.
“I don’t see any legal reason why those statutes cannot be amended to ensure that the actual victims are protected; it’s no different than prohibiting sex offenders from living 1,000 feet from a church or school,” said retired Texas judge, Richard Barajas.
Dyer, who was only 7 years old when English sexually assaulted her, hopes that her actions will help others in different states who may face similar situations.
[Feature Photo: Handout/Oklahoma Department of Corrections]