Friday, April 9, 2010

James E. Gafford - Repeat Sex Offender - Rapist

A convicted sex offender who failed to register his current address in Panama City is back in jail after he fled to Alabama and raped a 17-year-old runaway, authorities said.
Bay County Sheriff Maj. Tommy Ford said James E. Gafford exemplifies the importance of sex offender registration.
“That’s the reason we take this so seriously,” Ford said. “It’s not as punishment for what sex offenders have done in the past. This proves the point that they’re, in a lot of cases, likely to reoffend and that we need to keep track of them.”
Gafford, 44, first showed up in the Panhandle in mid-December, Ford said. Gafford was charged in 2001 with attempted sexual battery on an adult and had served time in an Alabama prison. He was required, subsequently, to keep police notified at all times of his whereabouts.
He registered his address as the Panama City Rescue Mission when he first arrived in town and then, a week later, as a shed on Baldwin Road. The Baldwin Road address irked some residents, who said they didn’t want a sex offender so close to two schools.

The charity that owns the shed responded that neither Gafford nor anyone else was living there, although police found take-out food and beds in the portable units.
“It kind of became a moot point, though, because (Gafford) was arrested for burglary the same week,” Ford said.
Gafford spent all of January and most of February in the Bay County Jail for his involvement in a couple of car break-ins. When he got out of jail, he again listed his address as the rescue mission.

The following week, he told police he was staying at a hotel on U.S. 98 and, in mid-March, he said he was at another motel near the rescue mission, Ford said.

When police asked Gafford which room he was staying in, the major said, he got “kind of squirrely.”

After checking the hotel and finding he wasn’t there, police issued an arrest warrant March 26 for absconding.
Eight days later, Mobile, Ala., police arrested Gafford on a first-degree rape charge.
A copy of the police report was not available by press time, but Ford, who had seen the report, said he thinks Gafford met the teen on his bus ride to Alabama.

Gafford and the girl — possibly a runaway from another state — were staying at a motel in Mobile, Ford said. A motel security guard reported the case to police after he saw the girl walking through the parking lot and “acting strange,” Ford said. Gafford had choked her as well, he added.

Gafford is being held in the Mobile County Metro Jail without bond.

“We’re hoping that, if he gets out, he decides not to come back to Panama City,” Ford said.

"25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years"
.........Sarah Tofte

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