Residents shocked to learn sex offenders live nearby

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, August 29, 2007

AIKEN CTY, S.C.---A new sex offender ordinance is one vote away from becoming law in Aiken County. News 12 went to find out where registered offenders live and talk to some neighbors.

What we found out was shocking to all. Everyone we talked to was unaware that a sex offender was living near them. It came as a surprise to people sweeping their front porch this morning, who just want to protect their loved ones.

"It's a strong possibility it'll happen again so it's best to just keep them away," says Dorothy Cheatham.

Cheatham and her 11-year-old son just moved into their Aiken home a month ago. She didn't know a sex offender lived on her street until we told her.

"It's scary because you know having a child you don't expect this to be in your neighborhood."

Now, Aiken County is looking into a law that would restrict where convicted sex offenders live.

Trying to make the proposed law more manageable and enforceable, Sheriff Michael Hunt made some changes.

Now, it would prevent registered sex offenders from living or being employed within 1,000 feet of any child care facility, church, school or park.

Before the proposed law banned offenders from hanging out where kids spend time, like malls and restaurants.

"If I go somewhere, I'm going to take my nephew with me. I'm not going to let him go to a park all by himself like that," says Aiken resident Lynwood Priester.

That's because registered offender Ellis Birt lives on Laurens Street, right down the road from Lynwood Preister and a Boys and Girls Club.

Convicted sex offender Dean Monarch lives near Dorothy and her son. She is going to be much more aware of what is going on. But she knows she can't be there all the time.

"I can't just say, oh let's leave the screen door open anymore, even though you want to because this is a beautiful area."

You can click In Plain Sight on the top of our homepage to search both the Georgia and South Carolina Sex Offender Registries.

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