Sex Offenders Find Secret Home in Tennessee - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates:

Sex Offenders Find Secret Home in Tennessee

(Story created: 6/29/06)

A NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that sexual predators from other states are slipping into Tennessee without the public ever knowing about it.

Sex Offenders on the World Wide Web
Jerry Inman is just one of hundreds of sex offenders listed on public registries in other states, but not on Tennessee's registry. Inman is on the public sex offender registry in both North Carolina and Florida.
Florida lists 259 sex offenders and predators who give their last known address as being in Tennessee.
Click here to search Florida's sex offender registry.
Click here to search the Mississippi sex offender registry
Click here to search the Illinois sex offender registry
Click here to search the Alabama sex offender registry
Click here to search the Kentucky sex offender registry
Click here to search the Iowa sex offender registry

Jerry Inman spent 16 years in a Florida prison for rape. He also spent time behind bars in North Carolina where he raped another inmate.

"I mean this guy was convicted of raping a woman and raping a man both, so he had some serious problems," Jefferson County, Tenn., Sheriff David Davenport tells NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Jennifer Kraus.

And when Inman got out of prison last fall, he moved to Tennessee and police say he sexually assaulted three more women.

"First time he fondled, next time, he raped, third time, he killed," Davenport says.

Inman's third and final victim was a student at Clemson University in South Carolina. Police say Inman tied her up, raped her and then strangled her with a bikini top.

And while Inman can be found on both Florida's sex offender registry and North Carolina's sex offender registry for his past crimes, he's not on Tennessee's.

It's not that Inman didn't register here in Tennessee.

He did.

But we discovered that, because of a loophole in the law,  what folks in Florida and North Carolina knew about Inman, he was able to keep secret from people here in Tennessee.

And our investigation found he's not alone.

In fact, we found hundreds of sex offenders just like Jerry Inman -- convicted rapists and child molesters who list Tennessee addresses on other states' sex offender websites.

Yet, they are nowhere to be found on Tennessee's public registry.

"It is unbelievable," says victims rights advocate Verna Wyatt. "That's ridiculous. If they're on the public registry in Florida and they move to Tennessee, they should be on the public registry here."

And Sheriff Davenport, the man who helped catch Inman in East Tennessee, also found it hard to believe.

"It doesn't make sense," Davenport says. "It's kind of a sham, isn't it?"

Yet the way the law is written in Tennessee, if the crime happened before July 1, 1997, the sex offender goes on a private registry -- a list that's accessible only to law enforcement.

And of the nearly 10,000 registered sex offenders in Tennessee, more than half of them are on this private list that you can't see.

"You're either on the sex offender registry or you're not on it and to maintain two makes no sense to me whatsoever," Davenport adds.

State Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, who has long worked to protect Tennesseans from sex offenders, says what we uncovered shows the law needs to be changed.

"It's something I think we'll fix," Jackson says.  "They're predators and if they come here to Tennessee, their past needs to follow them. We don't need to create a place for them to hide."

But right now that's exactly what critics say Tennessee is doing.

Verna Wyatt of the victims' group You Have The Power says, "They're putting people in jeopardy."

Sen. Jackson says he plans introduce legislation to fix the loophole when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

Until then, really the best you can do is search other state's sex offender registries yourself to find convicted sex offenders who say they now live in Tennessee. (See box above.)

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