By Jimmie Ferguson
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE A 52-year-old day-care provider here was arrested last week in connection with allowing her boyfriend, a registered sex offender, to interact with children.
Cynthia Bridges of Killeen, who has since closed the Care A Lot Day Care at 501 Turner St. in Copperas Cove, was released Tuesday from Killeen Jail on a $10,000 bond, charged with endangering a child.
Yet, the registered sex offender, Paul Porter, 39, of Killeen, wasn't charged, because he broke no law, said Copperas Cove Police Department Investigator Lori Hix, who oversees the sex offenders for her department. "He is permitted to go anywhere he chooses."
Even though Porter is required to register as a sex offender, Hix said he is not on community supervision (probation or parole), which means he is not bound by the limitations set forth by law.
However, Hix said her office was concerned that a sex offender was employed among children, and a couple on April 8 made a complaint of Porter allegedly touching their 5-year-old daughter's bottom "to get her to move back towards the other children because she was climbing on him," the arrest complaint stated.
"If you had a small child, would you put your kid into a day care that you knew there was a sex offender?" Hix asked. "When you put children at risk, and their parents have no idea that's endangering a child."
The complaining couple in this case told police that they would have never put their children in this day-care facility, if they had known that Porter was a sex offender.
This is just one incident of how closely sex offenders are monitored in Texas, Hix said.
Presently, there are 30 sex offenders registered in Copperas Cove, 32 in Harker Heights, 13 in Nolanville and the 147 in Killeen includes those on Fort Hood.
Even before the offenders were released from incarceration or on probation, Hix said the local police departments received a pre-release notification from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
"Within seven days of their release, the sex offenders must register with the police department and the community supervisor/probation officer in the area which they are going to reside," said Hix, noting out-of-state offenders have 10 days to register.
Upon registering, Hix said she verifies the offender's address, takes his or her photograph and sends that information to the Department of Public Safety. The DPS in turn puts this information and photograph on its data base.
Hix said anyone can gain access to this data base at the DPS sex offender's Web site at http://records.txdps.state.tx.us.
The public is also informed that a sex offender is moving into the community with a notice in both English and Spanish, along with photograph of the sex offender, that must run in the local newspaper for two consecutive weeks at the expense of the sex offender. The notice will include all the pertinent information about the sex offender, his exact address and circumstances of the offense, Hix said.
The investigator said the public notification does not apply to juveniles, yet all the other requirements do.
"If the incident occurs within one's family, there is no public notification, because that's going to put the spotlight back on the victim. We don't want that to happen," Hix said.
If the incident occurred before 1995, Hix said a public notice is not required. However, it still goes on the DPS data base.
From that time on, sex offenders are required to notify law enforcement of any changes in their address, telephone number, employment and/or vehicle status.
"If they have a phone and the phone is disconnected, they have to notify me. If they are working and quit that job, I have to know. If they are not working and get a job, I have to be notified. If they are driving a certain car, I have to know what kind. If they trade or get rid of their vehicle, I have to know," said Hix, noting these changes are in turn passed on to DPS.
"Every time the sex offender changes his address, it costs him to put the public notification in the newspaper.
This information is also sent to the schools. "That way, any crossing guards or anybody else who is looking to help protect these children would know that person should not be around the school area," she added.
Hix pointed out every sex offender is not a pedophile. "In other words, every sex offender doesn't sexually assault kids. They assault adults as well," she said.
After completing several other forms, sex offenders under community supervision are issued a blue Texas Sex Offender Registration Receipt or card that must be presented each year when they apply for new driver's license, as required.
When sex offenders are under community supervision, they have to attend sex offense classes, counseling, anger management counseling and not use any type of illicit drugs.
In Copperas Cove, sex offenders on probation or parole are supervised by Beverly Gillooly, the sex offender adult probation officer for Coryell County.
"She is really nice to work with," Hix said. "She's like a duck on a June bug. She will get after a sex offender, just like a duck chasing a June bug around."
When a sex offender is released on probation or parole, Gillooly said she sees them twice a week once during the day and once at the night.
Gillooly said this goes on until they complete sex offender group counseling and make it up to certain level mandated by the state.
"This is to educate the offender so they won't commit any more sexual offenses," Gillooly said.
From Phase 1 through Phase 4, Gillooly said the offenders report to her twice a week. "During these phases, they have to attend weekly group sections, complete all homework and pass polygraph exams," Gillooly said.
At Phase 5, the offenders report to her once a month and attend sex offender group counseling once a month. "Each person is different," Gillooly said. "I have one guy that it took him over three years to get to Phase 5. I have another guy who got there in a year and a half."
Even after they get to Phase 5, Gillooly said they just don't go right to monthly meetings.
"They start out reporting to me every other week until I'm sure that they are not doing anything wrong," she said. "I don't give them something for nothing. They work for what they get, and if they don't, I will file on them. It's that simple."
Hix said it's very easy for a sex offender to unknowingly become one's neighbor, especially in the transient cities surrounding Fort Hood.
"You are banking on the fact that somebody is reading the newspaper or somebody is going through the DPS data base," she said. "Otherwise, no one is going to know. We don't put signs in the front yards here."
Even when a sex offender dies, Hix said there's paperwork.
"We have to gather for DPS the post-mortem prints, a copy of the death certificate, a letter from the county clerk and a copy of the obituary with photograph," Hix said. "You don't think they mean business?"
Contact Jimmie Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org