A September Journal-World investigation of Kansas sex offenders who fail to register when crossing state lines prompted a federal agency to take action and led to several arrests, said Tom Lanier, a chief inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service.
Arrests since our investigation
• Samuel M. Gagnon: Convicted in Johnson County in 2002 of attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child, Gagnon told Kansas authorities he was moving to Colorado, but failed to register in that state. Gagnon was arrested by the Marshals Service and the Denver Police Department in February and charged with failing to register as a sex offender.
• Thomas C. McCoumb: Convicted in Harper County in 2004 of indecent liberties with a child. McCoumb was released from a Kansas prison in 2009 and told authorities he was also moving to Colorado. McCoumb failed to register there and was arrested by the Marshals Service in January in Denver.
These sex offenders were arrested for other offenses during the investigation and could face additional charges of failing to register:
• Thomas J. Miller: Convicted of sexually assaulting a minor in Nebraska in 2006. Miller moved to Kansas but failed to register with another state when he left Kansas. Miller is currently in jail in Wyoming for drunken driving and is facing charges in Texas for failing to register as a sex offender.
• Raymond C. Carrick: Convicted in Kansas in 2000 of sexual battery, moved to Georgia following his 2006 release, but failed to register as a sex offender. Carrick was arrested on burglary charges.
Kansas Sex Offender Registry facts and guidelines
• Enacted in 1993 and applies to crimes committed only after April 14, 1994.
• Requires sex offenders to register in person four times each year with their local sheriff’s office.
• Adults are required to register for either 15 or 25 years, depending on the crime, for a first conviction, and life for a second conviction.
• Some more serious offenses require lifetime registration on a first conviction.
• People required to register for an offense in another state are also required to register if they move to Kansas.
• Crimes requiring registration include sodomy, rape, sexual battery, indecent liberties with a child, sexual exploitation of a child and incest.
• Failing to register, or failing to notify the sheriff’s office within three days when there’s an address change, is a level 6 felony that could result in prison time.
• The public can search the registry online at no charge.
• The U.S. Department of Justice operates the National Sex Offender Public Website, which compiles registry information from all 50 states.
Last year, a Journal-World investigation found that more than 160 Kansas sex offenders who left Kansas were not registered in other states. Failing to register after moving to other states is potentially a federal and state crime.
Following the investigation, the Journal-World furnished the Marshals Service — tasked with enforcing sex offender laws across state lines — with a list of unregistered offenders.
“We went painstakingly through the list,” said Lanier, who is in charge of the Sex Offender Investigations branch, which includes Kansas.
They were quickly able to narrow the list down, Lanier said. Some of the offenders had died or moved to states with different registration laws that did not require them to register.
For the past several months, the Marshals Service has been investigating 22 of the cases identified by the Journal-World. Those investigations led to two arrests, while two additional sex offenders were arrested for other offenses and could face additional failure-to-register charges.
The Marshals Service is actively searching for several other offenders who have failed to register, but the agency asked that those names not be released.
In addition, two of the offenders, B.J. Lucas and Hayton P. Robinson, are currently serving in the U.S. Army. Lanier said that the Marshals Service contacted the Army in both instances and that the Army is aware of both men’s sex-offender status. Calls to the Army for comment were not immediately returned.
Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said the KBI, which is responsible for the Kansas Sex Offender Registry, sends letters to states notifying them that a registered sex offender is entering their state. But after that, it’s somebody else’s responsibility.
“It’s up to (the new state and the offender) to do,” said Smith when interviewed about the issue in September.
There could be cases where an offender moves to one state, then to another, but that information isn’t necessarily communicated among states, Smith said.
That’s exactly the problem, said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for more accountability in sex offender registries nationwide.
“We’ve established a law that requires society’s most cunning of criminals to register on an honor system,” Ahearn said.
Inconsistent laws among states make keeping track of sex offenders a complicated endeavor, a situation Lanier and the Marshals Service is all too familiar with.
“There’s 50 ways of doing business out there,” Lanier said. “Nobody really has a clue how many (sex offenders) have to register.”
In some cases, an offender in one state may not be required to register in another state. That means some clever offenders are engaged in “state shopping,” where offenders move to a state where registry laws may not be as strict.
“That’s not uncommon,” Lanier said.