LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Court records in Jefferson County point to a disturbing trend in Metro Louisville. Records show more convicted sex offenders are being arrested for not listing themselves on the sex offender registry and providing updated information.
Our investigation also found many of them still aren't compliant months after their arrest, and no one knows where they are. More than 50 convicted sex offenders in Jefferson County have been arrested this year for trying to live under the radar and off the registry.
"The offenders who represent the greatest risk frankly want to be anonymous. They don't want anyone to know they're there," Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said.
A recent familiar face among those arrested this year, Roy Vernon Elwell. The convicted sex offender is under investigation for this summer's high profile disappearance of a Bullitt County woman. Brittney Kustes later told police Elwell held her against her will.
That was in August, but court records point to a March arrest. Elwell was charged with a felony for not complying with the sex offender registry. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, served 11 days in a jail, and was let out under the condition he register immediately, but he never did. "It's not a perfect system, but it is one that serves a good purpose," Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell said.
The purpose of the sex offender registry, and its online database, is to let you know about sex offenders living near you and your family. "It's a great service, especially if you're a parent," Kentucky State Police Sgt. Tim Mullins said.
However, that service is only as good as the sex offenders who keep state police updated with their current address. Of the half million registered sex offenders in the country, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates as many as 100,000 of them aren't complying with the registry. State police report that of the approximately 8,000 sex offenders in Kentucky, 191 are non-compliant.
"To see that on here and see he's non-compliant could mean several things: he's absconded, gone, we don't know where he's at, or it could mean he's just not filled out paperwork properly," Sgt. Mullins explained.
We went looking for Paul Spratt. Spratt is listed as non-compliant on the registry. The man who answered the door at his last known address told us Spratt doesn't live there. Spratt, like Elwell and Aaron Schreiber, was arrested and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and served little or no jail time. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children is fighting to have these cases taken more seriously. "States like Kentucky, and most states, need to take another look at it and be far more aggressive," Allen said. "It's not enough to say go forth and sin no more."
Advocates like Ernie Allen are pushing for authorities to treat these cases as felonies, and not plead them down to misdemeanors. "I don't agree with that necessarily. It's like any other case and the disposition. We're achieving convictions, which then puts in place continued monitoring," O'Connell said.
State police insist they take their job of tracking sex offenders very seriously. If an address can't be verified, the search starts right away.
34-year-old Roy Vernon Elwell, who was part of this investigation, is once again facing the same charge of failure to comply. This time he's charged with a felony, not a misdemeanor. Elwell has not been charged in Brittney Kustes' disappearance.