CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Sex Offender Unit consists of three people juggling a huge case load within the department.
Deputy Margo Kuderer says she and two others register homes, cars, Facebook accounts, and more.
“There’s three of us, our responsibilities are to register sex offenders, arsons, and soon to be -- in March -- violent offenders,” said Kuderer.
That’s three people, she said, handling some 1,600 registered sex offenders in Hamilton County. Offenders like Kenneth Thomas, who are required to check in regularly, and if deputies do not hear from them, they’ll issue a warrant.
FOX19 first reported about Thomas, a convicted sex offender, on New Year’s Day. He claimed to be homeless, deputies said, so he never reported to his parole officer where he was living.
“It happens a lot,” said Kuderer. “As a matter of fact, in 2018, we issued 210 felony warrants, we issue the most felony warrants within the sheriff’s office.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can look right now at where every registered sex offender is living in Hamilton County.
Thomas was arrested initially back in November for failing to tell his probation officer where he was living.
Once Thomas did find an apartment in Norwood, it didn’t take long for him to break the law in a big way, according to investigators. What exactly happened inside Thomas' Lawn Avenue apartment is still up for debate as investigators scour through thousands of sexually explicit child porn images on his confiscated smartphone.
In Thomas’ case, a neighbor called police, finding it odd that a 49-year-old single guy had a Mexican woman and four kids living in his tiny efficiency apartment. One child, FOX19 is told, was 5 months old. The others were ages 3, 6, and 7 years old.
“He violated the registration laws,” said Kuderer. “So he was on probation for failure to register.”
Deputies say the pictures on Thomas' phone were of young girls, naked girls, who were engaged in sex acts -- some with animals. Right now, they don’t believe any of the kids in the images were those living with him.
The criminal complaint shows one child in the photos was only 1 month old.
Kuderer has seen worse.
“I’ve had some that are a couple days, couple weeks old, up to 85 years old, being victims,” she said.
Detectives said they found lots of pairs of kids underwear in Thomas' apartment, and even more pairs of kids’ underwear hidden in his pillow cases -- but they could not say if Thomas got any of those images from social media.
Most parole involves no smartphones or Internet access and using dial-only cellphones to make calls.
"However, once they're off probation, they're fair game, they can do whatever they please,” said Kuderer. “They are required to register their Facebook, email accounts and so forth."
But it’s almost impossible to keep an accurate track, because many will open accounts under another name or an alias.
Cleveland has the biggest numbers in the state.
“Cuyahoga has the most,” she said. “They have about 4,500.”
Hamilton County ties with Columbus with about the same number of sex offenders.
“It’s between us and Franklin (County),” she said. “We kind of run neck and neck.”
Kuderer said we have more resources here for offenders to get help, which is why our numbers are so high. There’s also this startling stat: "a 75 percentage for re-offending,” said Kuderer.
“Sometimes, it’s just in their DNA unfortunately," she said.
DNA, though, is also helping to keep the worst of the worst behind bars, like Tri-State serial rapist Stanley Lightener, convicted in 2013.
"He was charged with failure to register,” she said. “They collected his DNA at the jail -- for whatever reason, when he was released from DRC, they never collected it -- they attached him to three rapes of children under the age of 12 at gunpoint. So now he’s doing life.”
As for Thomas, the judge set a high bond.
“He’s not going anywhere,” said Kuderer.
You can use these sits to track sex offenders as well:
For parents, Kuderer recommends no social media for their kids. Realistically though, if your kids have to have it, she advises putting as many restrictions on it as you can, especially on passwords and access. Even then, there’s no guarantee your kids are safe.
Kuderer said there are success stories though, offenders who’ve gone through treatment and turned their lives around and living a much happier life now. The overriding theme, she said, is they truly don’t want to hurt children, they really want to get help, but without treatment, there’s a DNA compulsion they just can’t deny.
The majority of factors working against offenders are: low-income, low education, mental health issues, drugs, and alcohol.