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Ten sex offenders on probation — including two living in a group home in East Williston — have been arrested on charges of violating their probation by having email accounts, Internet access, child pornography, computers and mobile phones. All are prohibited by the terms of their release into the communities in Levy County.
Sheriff's Lt. Scott Tummond said a partnership with the U.S. Marshal's Office in Gainesville, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and the Gainesville Police Department, and the state Department of Probation and Parole office resulted in the arrests in Alachua and Levy counties.
“Operation Wrangler” as it was dubbed, was funded by the U.S. Marshal's Office for 90 days and utilized the Internet Crimes Against Children task force that is housed in Gainesville.
Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum Jr. expressed his gratitude to the Marshal's Office through Tummond: “Without the U.S. Marshal's Office paying the overtime we wouldn't have been able to do that.” The sheriff also praised the cooperation between the departments, Tummond said.
Because some of the arrests came at a home on Northeast 35th Street in East Williston where a number of sex offenders live, Tummond said the sheriff wanted the message to go out: “We are watching...and should a violation be found we will immediately address it.” Tummond said nine residents were at the home during the April 4 arrests.
Arrested in Levy County and the probation violations are:
• Walter Allen Aldridge, 45, of Morriston, failure to report email address, instant message name. Bond: $75,000. Original conviction: Sentenced in Marion County in 2003 to eight years, 1 month, 24 days for aggravated assault with a weapon, lewd and lascivious exhibition on victim under age 16, and in 2004 for failing to comply with conditions and again in 2008 for failure to comply.
• Joie Leonard Chitwood, 52, failing to register as required. Bond: $50,000. Original conviction: Designated a sexual predator and sentenced in Putnam County in 1995 to 15 years for coercing a sexual act by a child.
• Kenneth James Culver, 28, having Internet capable devices in his possession. No bond. Original conviction: Sentenced in Alachua in 2008 to 10 years on five counts of possession of child sex abuse photos. His release date was 2018.
• Lagonda O'Shea Johnson, 30, of Archer, failure to report email address, instant message name. Bond: $50,000. Original conviction: Sentenced in Levy in 2003 to two years on lewd and lascivious battery of victim between ages 12-15. Released from prison in 2005.
• Jennifer Lynn Markham, 40, of Dunnellon, sex offender registration. Bond: $50,000. Original conviction: Sentenced for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child in 1992, adjudication was withheld; and in 2009 to one year, nine months for failing to re-register as a sex offender. She was released in 2010.
• Steven James McMurry, 43, of Bronson, accessing pornographic sites on Internet, possession of pornographic videos and photos on mobile device. No bond. Original conviction: Sentenced in Marion County in 2008 to two years prison followed by 10 years probation on sexual battery on person between ages of 12 and 15, and to five years for possession of a controlled substance.
• Cindy Margaret Hughes-Nickerson, 51, of Bronson, failing to report email address, instant message name. Bond: $50,000. Original conviction: Sentenced in Alachua County on two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child,
• John Edgar Rigby, 57, of Williston, possession of five cell phones. No bond. Original conviction: Sentenced in 2012 in Levy to five years probation for possession of child pornography. He was doe to released on Jan. 11, 2017.
• William Keith Tisdale, 56, failure to register, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. Bond: $51,000. Original conviction: Sentenced in 1996 in Levy on lewd and lascivious act against a child to five years probation. Has since been arrested for violation of probation — including failing to register in 2006 — and battery, which was dropped.
• Charles Wells, 44, of Williston, possession of child pornography, possession of firearm. No bond. Original conviction: Sentenced to in Levy in 2008 on 3 counts of possession of child pornography, and in Alachua on 7 counts of possession of child pornography and 38 counts of possessing child sex abuse photos to serve five years on each charge, served concurrently.
“These offenders on probation know what the conditions are,” Tummond said. He noted that one was in the community only 18 months before being caught up in “Operation Wrangler.”
Tummond said the operation had three phases:
• looking at sex offenders in violation of the terms and conditions of their probation. “Each one is different. Each one has different terms,” Tummond said. While one sex offender can have a computer or a telephone, another can be barred from possessing or using such devices.
Tummond said sex offenders are required to register their email addresses, their instant messaging names and their names on social network sites they use.
“We identified 18 people that were not in compliance,” he said. “Two were in egregious violation and had not registered anything.”
He said some of those arrested have email and Facebook accounts that they failed to register. Tummond said they were contacted and told to come in and register.
• The second phase involved applying for warrants
• Phase three was the actual roundup. For that the warrants team and deputies from the Marshal's office and the sheriffs offices went out and arrested those named in the warrants.
But Tummond said while the investigation netted a lot of information over the 90-day period, the arrests do not mean the investigation is over. He said the electronic devices seized in the operation will be examined.
To find out the location of sex offenders in an area, visit offender.fdle.state.fl.us/offender/homepage.do.