Sex offenders in the place you may not expect

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- More than 40,000 registered sex offenders live in Florida at this time. While you may have looked at a sex offender registry to see if any are living near your neighborhood, they could be living in a place you might not have checked.

First for you, First Coast News investigate sex offenders in the room next door.

Josh Furlow is the father of two young children. He and his wife had no idea two predators, including one convicted of molesting a child, and two sex offenders were listed as having permanent addresses at a motel within walking distance of the motel they just checked into.

"It scares me because I don't do my research as I should and we have two kids and that definitely scares me. I know they have to have a place to live but I don't know. I think hotels should have a policy maybe on that," says Tara Furlow.

In Florida, there is no state law prohibiting sex offenders from living in motels or hotels as long as those required to live a certain distance from places like schools and day cares do so.

Fallon Lantz, a mother of two, is staying at the Country Hearth Inn near the airport. She says one sex offender lives just a few doors away from her room.

"Like two doors down. He lives two doors down," said Lantz.

A man who identified himself as the motel's new owner did not want to talk on camera, but confirmed to First Coast News that sex offenders are living on his property. He says the sheriff's department has called asking if there are rooms available for recently released sex offenders, and when they move in he says fliers are handed out notifying guests.

"I came home from work one morning and there were fliers posted at every room," said Travis Lantz. "The flier indicated there was a sex offender, and it had a picture of sex offender and listed the offense committed. It was weird to find out."

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office provided FCN with a "Sex Offender Residential Resources Listing" that shows places that will house sex offenders.

"The list of available hotel/motels for subjects re-entering is compiled by the Department of Corrections. That list is then forwarded to the Re-Entry Specialist at JREC (Jacksonville Re-entry Center). These individuals use the list as a reference point/resource to advise only of possible available locations for temporary or permanent housing. The subject is responsible for picking their own location for themselves. Again, the list is only for informational purposes to the subject re-entering society," said Officer Christian Hancock with JSO.

In Duval County the list includes Country Hearth Inn, a Best Western Inn in Baldwin and The Monterey Inn Motel on New Kings Road. The Monterey Inn Motel is where FCN found a convicted sex offender who agreed to talk to us.

When asked how the sex offender ended up at the hotel he said, "The Department of Corrections recommended it."

At Best USA Inn on Jacksonville's Northside, six sex offenders were listed in FDLE's sex offender registry as having the inn as their permanent address, which include five convicted of crimes involving children. When we stopped by we spotted more than one child playing outside.

Best USA Inn Assistant Manager Kathy Stone said, "We have signs that say keep your eyes on your kids, but there is not much we can do."

Sex offenders are required to notify the sheriff's department of their new address within 48 hours, but JSO says it is only required to verify sex offenders' addresses once a year, during their birthday month, unless they move.

In Duval County, Hancock says a sex offender is not required to let hotels/motels know that they are a registered sex offender.

First Coast News found sex offenders living in motels across the state, including some near popular tourist destinations. Just a few miles from Universal Studios in Orlando a sex offender convicted of a lewd act with a child listed his address at a Quality Inn according to FDLE's registry the day we looked. Twenty-four sex offenders listed the Parkwood Inn in Orlando as their permanent address in FDLE's registry in April 2014.

"Keep your eyes on your kids. Don't let them play out. Keep an eye on your kids, just don't let them run freely. It's not safe anywhere," said Stone.

First for you, in collaboration with our news partner, the Florida Times-Union, you can check this database of sex offenders who have registered addresses at motels and hotels in Florida.

Sex offender database


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