INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – I-Team 8 has learned deputies in Colorado were after an Indiana sex offender the day they say he murdered a mother and her two children, just five and nine years old. I-Team 8 Chief Investigative Reporter Karen Hensel has uncovered Jaacob Vanwinkle once on parole in Indiana, failed to register. Vanwinkle moved from Indiana to Colorado in 2012 where he was required to register four times a year. Colorado deputies tell I-Team 8 he was supposed to register March 4. A five day grace period meant the warrant was to go out Monday, the day after the triple murder.
One Indiana parole officer said it becomes “dangerous” when sex offenders like Vanwinkle don’t register. Those on parole, among the worst, are watched closely by the Indiana Department of Correction and Parole officers like Gerald Carter. As Carter walked into one offender’s room he saw candy that could be used to entice children. Carter questioned him about it. Every week Carter physically checks where parolees are living.
“When they don’t have a place to stay, that’s when they roam the streets and I don’t know where they are at. And that’s when it becomes dangerous,” explained Carter.
His clients, as he calls them, are all sex offenders on parole. The next door he knocked on, no one answered. His offenders are supposed to be living there. Finally, one of them showed up.
“Hey come here man. Where you been at?” asked Carter.
“We was about to move out,” replied the offender.
Carter questioned if they were going to notify him as they are to do by law.
The offender mumbled, “Yeah, we was waiting on you to come.”
Carter doubts their story. He has five offenders living at an east side Indianapolis motel.
I-Team 8’s investigation also found an issue is often housing.
“That’s something you deal with all the time. It’s 11 a.m., time to check out and they are scrambling,” explained Carter.
Out of money, the three have a matter of hours to find a new place to live and get Carter’s permission to move. It’s how many end up at the mission, homeless or on the run.
I-Team 8’s next stop was near Broad Ripple and an offender on parole for child molest. Carter questioned him about his next polygraph and like all the parolees he looked in their refrigerator, freezer and cabinets for any evidence of drugs or alcohol which are prohibited. I-Team 8 found sex offenders often colonize.
“The best way to look for a job or a place to live is to see where other sex offenders are working or living through the registry,” explained Joshua, an offender.
Paroled sex offenders are not allowed access to the internet. Joshua says his mom helped him look. His concern about where to live is, “You screw up with the registry, that is a new offense.”
It is a Class D felony.
What about those on the run? It’s who is not registered that becomes concerning for law enforcement. As of March 12, the state registry shows there are 342 non-compliant sex offenders, meaning they aren’t registered. I-Team 8’s search found the majority of them are sexually violent predators.
“They don’t have a lot of time. If they aren’t in compliance, that’s it. We’ll file a warrant for them,” explained Marion County Sheriff John Layton.
Sometimes they pick them up during another investigation, as was the case with Keith Pease. IMPD was called to a house on the east side for a sexual assault allegation in December. They found Pease hiding in a basement crawl space next door. Turns out, he was wanted on an outstanding warrant for failing to register as a sex offender. IMPD arrested him. I-Team 8 learned it wasn’t the first time he failed to register.
In 2007, the Indiana Appeals Court ruled in a case involving Pease besides “…getting arrested for a new offense, one of the most serious violations a sex offender can commit is failing…” to register so that whether he is around minor children can be monitored.
ON THE RUN
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office conducted 6,718 registry compliance checks last year with 170 warrants for all sex offender violations, but only one residency violation filed with the prosecutor. In the last two weeks, 93 cases of residency violations alone have been turned over by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office after Sheriff Layton looked at a different case law in wake of I-Team 8’s investigations.
Carter says he has some sex offenders on parole on the run he is looking for. That was the case in Colorado.
I-Team 8 found Jaacob Vanwinkle was wanted in one Colorado county for violating a protective order and a warrant was going to be issued in a second county for failing to register the day after the triple murder.