Valdosta Daily Times

November 15, 2013

Missing sex offenders sought

Adam Floyd
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help in locating five absconded sex offenders.

“We want to notify the public that these people are out there. There are warrants for their arrests,” said Lt. Stryde Jones.

Officers have been unable to find five offenders: Larry Billoups, 28, Nelson Harrison, 34, Michael Hendley, 38, Kevin Kelley, 29, and Raishawn Siplen, 31.

Billoups was convicted for rape and previously registered an address on Cypress Street. Hendley was convicted of statutory rape. Harrison, Kelley and Siplen were convicted of child molestation in unrelated cases.

Georgia law requires that sex offenders register a change of address immediately, and when officers are unable to locate an offender, an investigation begins.

“Kevin Kelley came in and registered an address on the north end of the county. Within two days, our investigator was out there, and the house was vacant,” said Jones, “Neighbors said no one lived there. The case was compiled and presented to a judge, and a warrant was issued.”

Jones said that each offender on the registry has to adhere to a different set of restrictions based on their convictions, but each has to register their residence and place of employment. Officers work with offenders to help maintain their compliance under the law, but offenders who refuse to comply or lie about their residence are aggressively pursued.

“All we ask of any sex offender is to comply with the law. We are not trying to create undue hardship on anybody, but we do want total compliance with the law. We think the public deserves that,” said Jones.

The sheriff’s office’s efforts to alert and inform the public of sex offenders in the area include a complete online registry and updated lists that are delivered to boards of education and county government buildings each week.

“It’s important to us that the information be up to date, so we do it on a weekly basis,” said Jones.

The sex offender program in Lowndes County is a little different than those in other areas. Georgia law requires that the residence of an offender be verified only once. Jones believes the sheriff’s office has taken a more stringent approach that verifies an offender’s residence and place of employment every 30 days.

“Every county takes a different approach. Some do it every two or three months, and that has a lot to do with the resources available,” said Jones, “We are fortunate enough that the sheriff has allocated a resource to be able to do it this way. We think it’s a vital service to the community.”

The sheriff’s office has one investigator whose sole duty is to verify the location of Lowndes County’s 243 sex offenders. Thirty-five of those offenders are currently in a jail or detention center, and 26 live in other counties but work in Lowndes. The investigator works closely with probation and parole officials who also verify the location of sex offenders.

“It’s quite possible that you’ve got a sex offender who is on probation or parole that is getting verified twice a month by two different agencies,” said Jones, “But again, it’s that important for us to do that.”

Employment and residency restrictions often prohibit a sex offender from living near daycares, schools, churches and other areas. Those restrictions have created a few areas in Lowndes County that have a higher number of sex offenders than others.

“We do have a couple of motels that are located in non-restrictive areas. One particular place has about 20,” said Jones, “Those areas get checked on a very regular basis just because we have so many offenders living there.”

Jones hopes people will monitor the sex offender registry website to “keep an eye” on people who are moving into the area and to contact the sheriff’s office with any questions they may have about sex offenders or residency and employment restrictions.

Anyone with information about absconded sex offenders can contact Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office at (229) 671-2950, and anonymous tips can be provided at (229) 671-2985 or online at www.lowndessheriff.com.