ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. (WNCN) — A registered sex offender accused of kidnapping and attempting to rape a 1-year-old Tuesday night had a compliance check just eight days earlier.
Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp says investigators conducted four sex offender verification checks on Alexander Ezell in the first six months of 2017, with the latest on June 27. Sheriff Tripp said that is more than required, with the department summoning sex offenders to regularly report in and confirm their addresses. Each deputy is also assigned two sex offenders for regular checks.
“You have to keep constant checks for address verifications. You have to keep that ongoing,” Tripp said. “Compared to other agencies, I feel that we do (more). It’s left to the discretion of the department to how many they do. It’s something that I do for the protection of the citizens of Halifax County.”
Neighbors on Ezell’s street said Thursday they knew nothing about his 2009 conviction for the sexual battery of a five-year-old. Ezell was 13 at the time of the crime and convicted shortly after his 18th birthday.
Deputies went to Ezell’s home early Wednesday morning after receiving a call from one of his neighbors about a missing 1-year-old child. Sheriff Tripp said Ezell broke in the front door of a house a few doors down from his home and took the child. Investigators said they found the child at Ezell’s home, and a K-9 unit located Ezell hiding in the woods behind his home.
He is charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree kidnapping, attempted statutory rape, abduction of a child, indecent liberties with a minor, injury to real property, and resisting arrest. He has a $505,000 secured bond.
The 1-year-old girl’s grandmother said it is a traumatic time for the family, but they will make it and the child will be physically okay.
Donald Gregory, who lives near the victim, said: “It breaks your heart whether it’s yours or someone else’s, because the torture of it doesn’t come at the present, it comes later in the years when they really have time to think about it. If they’re old enough to remember.”
He added, “If I could stop it I would. If I knew someone was (abusing a child) and nobody knew about it, I’d report it. It’s a hellish, horrendous disease, sin, crime. I can’t imagine the torture and all that goes on with it.”
Gregory and some of the other neighbors said they want better notification about sex offenders living nearby. One woman said she would like for such information to posted on a sign at the entrance to the neighborhood.
The Department of Public Safety and State Bureau of Investigation share records online, and Halifax County’s webpage for the Sheriff’s Office has a link. Sheriff Tripp regularly posts on his Facebook page with information about the online sex offender registry.
“I encourage our citizens to know what’s going on in their neighborhood. They can go to that website and type in the zip code and the address, and it shows them the sex offenders that live in their neighborhood,” Tripp said.
Gregory he occasionally checks his computer to see what’s going on in his area, but he hasn’t searched such registries in depth. He said it is something to consider as he feels it his responsibility, and his neighbors’, to watch out for each other.
A retired pastor who is open about his own experience being abused as a child, Gregory said this arrest and its aftermath reminds him of a particular scripture.
“Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, I am, I am. I’m responsible for my neighborhood, and if nobody else feels that way, I am my brother’s keeper,” he said.
Ezell is scheduled to appear in court in mid-July