300 percent increase in sex offenders moving to Harris County - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

300 percent increase in sex offenders moving to Harris County

Posted: Updated:

43-year-old Lester Wade Winkle raped 3 elderly women.

His youngest known victim was 78, the oldest 87.

53-year-old David Bath sexually attacked 2 little girls, ages 7 and 8.

Winkle and Bath are just two of hundreds of convicted sex offenders who in just the last 5 years traded a prison address for one here in Harris County.

"These are people who spent decades in prison and now they're being released," said crime victims advocate Andy Kahan.

And the rate at which they are being released is as dramatic as it is disturbing.

Check this out.

According to figures obtained from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, in 2007 only 219 sex offenders were released to Harris County.

In 2008 that number went down to 215.

2009 saw a little increase with 230 sex offenders heading here.

But look at what happens in 2010.

The number jumps substantially to 311.

One year later, in 2011 the number rises again to 498.

Then last year, 2012, 623 sex offenders leave prison for Harris County, that's almost a 300 percent increase over the number of sex offenders who came to Harris County in 2007.

What's behind this alarming rise?

One reason Kahan points to, the state's old mandatory release law.

"It still plays a huge role in releasing convicted sex offenders," Kahan said. "As a matter of fact most of the mandatory releases these days are sex offenders."

The controversial mandatory release law began in 1977 as a way to ease prison overcrowding. Good time credits had inmates serving 20, 30, even 40 year sentences in just a few short years.

That law was abolished in 1996 but couldn't be applied retroactively.

"So offenders who got sentenced before 1987 they're going to come out like it or not and that's what we're seeing." said Kahan.

Also many of the sex offenders moving here in the last 5 years served all their time.

By law when criminals leave prison they're suppose to be returned to their county of residence or the county in which they were convicted.

But this halfway house on Beaumont Highway is one of the few facilities in the entire state that will accept sex offenders.

That means many sex offenders from other counties end up coming here giving Harris County much more than it's fair share.

This facility formerly known as The Reid Center was the subject of several Fox 26 hidden camera investigations a decade ago

We found open drug dealing and crack smoking inside the tax funded facility.

Now we've discovered 126 of the state's most dangerous sexual predators have spent some time in the last 5 years at this east side halfway house.

What's more, according to the state's sex offender database, 58 of these "worst of the worst" offenders list this place as their address.

"These are guys that have an extensive, extensive sexually violent history and also have a behavior abnormality," said Allison Taylor, director of the state's civil commitment program.

The state calls them sexually violent predators and their deviant fantasies and thoughts make it highly likely for them to re-offend.

"A very small but very dangerous population of sex offenders," Taylor said.

They are civilly committed so the state can monitor them with GPS tracking devices.

"Since 1999 we've reviewed over 48 thousand sex offenders and there's 278 that have been committed to this program," said Taylor

Remember in the last 5 years 126 of these dangerous predators spent some time residing at this halfway house. That's almost half of all the sex offenders who have ever been civilly committed.

"Like it or not it's one of the few facilities in this state that will take not just sex offenders under the mandatory release law but the civil commitments as well," said Kahan.

Keep in mind the civil commitment program was designed as a way the state could keep track of these sexually violent predators after they had to be freed from prison.

But in an exclusive investigation last week we told you how the parole board actually voted to release 11 of these dangerous predators early.

Those paroled include John Michael Enard, a serial rapist.

On January 19th Enard took off his GPS monitor, jumped the fence and hasn't been seen since.

Parole board members allowed Enard to leave prison early even though he still had 50 years left on his sentence.

"This guy didn't have a discharge date till the year 2062," Kahan points out. "He hadn't even served one third of his sentence for multiple sexual assaults."

Powered by WorldNow

4261 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77027

Phone: (713) 479-2801
Fax: (713) 479-2859

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices