Check involved sending certified letters to offenders

October 03, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD


Since Jan. 11, 74-year-old Wayne Evert Drake has been held at the Washington County Detention Center in connection with the robberies of a Family Dollar store and a Hagerstown Trust bank on West Franklin Street.

Seven months after Drake was put behind bars, his last known address of 7 E. Washington St. in Hagerstown still was posted on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry Web site.

That address remained posted in September, even after he entered a plea in connection with the Family Dollar case.

Drake's name and address were listed on the registry because in the late 1980s, he was convicted of abusing and sexually assaulting a child.


In an effort to get some idea of the registry's accuracy, The Herald-Mail in July began an investigation by mailing 102 certified letters to those sex offenders listed on the registry as residing in the 21740 ZIP code. The investigation determined that the addresses were incorrect for at least 12 of the offenders.

Drake's letter was returned, marked return to sender.

The process

July 4 through July 8: A list was compiled of the names and addresses of 103 sex offenders listed on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry Web site as living in the in the 21740 ZIP code.

Surveys were sent by certified mail to the addresses listed on the registry for the sex offenders. By July 11, when the letters were sent, one man, who had been listed as having an address that was "not current," was removed from The Herald-Mail's list for mailings, bringing the number in the 21740 ZIP code to 102.

July 11: The 102 certified letters, containing surveys about the registry's effects, were sent to the addresses of 102 people listed as registered sex offenders with a 21740 ZIP code on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry Web site.

July 29: Of the 102 envelopes mailed, 34 were marked return to sender, either because they were unclaimed or the addressees had moved and did not leave forwarding addresses.

Another 36 were signed for by the offender to whom it was addressed, and 12 were signed for by someone with the same last name. Nineteen were signed for by someone else. In one of those cases, the person who signed for the letter said it was done by mistake and that the addressee no longer lived at that address.

Aug. 2: A check of the Web site registry indicated no address changes, but names of some offenders were added. Eight offenders who had been listed on July 11 as being under investigation - meaning the registry unit believed their address information might be inaccurate - remained under investigation. One more man was placed under investigation after the letters were sent out. His was the letter returned after someone mistakenly signed for it.

Aug. 3: Washington County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Art Overcash, who is in charge of checking on the county's registered child sex offenders, reviewed with a reporter the names of 37 listed offenders who did not claim the surveys. In these cases, the offenders had not signed personally for the mail, their spouses or relatives had not signed for the mail or they had not been listed as being under investigation either before or after the mail was sent.

Overcash said he had found 25 of those men at their listed address between July 8 and 14.

A review of the names revealed that 12 had different addresses than were listed on the registry. One man had been at a different address for about three years, Overcash said. Another had been in prison for about that same length of time. Others were in jail. One was in Tennessee, another in Falling Waters, W.Va., and another in Frederick, Md.

Aug. 10 and Aug. 12: Reporters made door-to-door spot checks on some of the 37 sex offenders who were unaccounted for. In some cases, women who said they were wives or girlfriends of the offenders answered the door. At the Dagmar Hotel in downtown Hagerstown, where eight offenders were listed as living, a clerk at the front desk verified that two of the men still lived in the apartments listed on the Web site. Not all of addresses of the 37 in question, beyond those 12 confirmed as having different addresses through Overcash, could be verified. The accuracy of the registry listings could not be confirmed independently for 17 other offenders.

Aug. 18: The number of names on the registry listing dropped to 99. The names of the offenders that Overcash said moved to Tennessee, Falling Waters, W.Va., and Frederick no longer were on the list. In some cases, addresses remained the same, even for a couple of men Overcash said had moved. One man who had been listed as being under investigation in July remained listed as under investigation. He answered his door, at the address listed on the Web site, on Aug. 10.

Sept. 15: Drake's picture and last known address of 7 E. Washington St. remained posted on the Web site. Overcash said he doesn't ask that the addresses of those who are in the Washington County Detention Center be removed from the Web site because they might post bond and be released pending trial. If Drake remains in jail when his anniversary date to register comes up in October, Overcash said he would ask that Drake's name be removed from the list.

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