Man accused in Olathe woman’s death had prior sex conviction
Wife, church had no way of knowing because suspect was not listed on national offender registry
Olathe ? A man accused of raping and killing a member of his church had a record for sexual assault in Minnesota – but Kansas had no record of his conviction, and he was not required to register on a national database.
Even the wife of Roger Ratliff, charged in Miami County with capital murder and rape in the death of 21-year-old Alieghya Clark, said she knew little of his criminal history.
Ratliff, 41, of Olathe, was convicted in 1986 of sexually assaulting a woman he knew in Benton County, Minn. He was placed on 20 years probation, violated probation less than a decade later and went to prison for 16 months, said Shari Burt, a spokeswoman with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Minnesota records show that he was released in December 1996, violated the terms of his release four months later and was imprisoned again until March 1998.
But because Minnesota did not consider him a high risk to re-offend, he was not required to register as a sex offender. He didn’t have to register nationally upon moving to Kansas because the crime took place before 1994, when the national registry law took effect.
Ratliff married his wife, Karen, in 1999 after the two met at College Church of the Nazarene.
“For people to find out about old convictions, it’s almost impossible,” said Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison. “Should she have known he was a sex offender? It would have been next to impossible for her to have known that.”
Besides attending church with Ratliff and his family, Clark was also their neighbor.
“She trusted him,” said Ratliff’s sister, Janelle Thomas. “And why wouldn’t she? This is someone she went to church with.”
John Oster, a minister at the church, said he and other members of the congregation were unaware of Ratliff’s conviction.
“Obviously, since he didn’t have to register, we wouldn’t know,” Oster said.
Ratliff, who is jailed on $1 million bond, was charged after investigators found Clark’s remains late last month in Miami County. Prosecutors allege that he raped and killed Clark in late May.
James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, said people rely too much on state registries.
“You can’t presume because you know where registered sex offenders are that you are safe and sound,” Fox said. “Good, old-fashioned common sense, what you do with whom, will do you more good than knowing where all the registered sex offenders are in your neighborhood.”