By JOSH NEWTON
Authorities from across the state saturated Cherokee County Tuesday to check the compliance of dozens of convicted sex offenders who claimed to be living in the area.
Teams of officers fanned out across the county shortly after 6 a.m., determined to track down as many of the 100-plus offenders they were asked to check as possible. By day’s end, after 12 hours of knocking on doors from Peggs to Tahlequah and Cookson to Fort Gibson, officers had checked on half of the offenders and made several arrests.
Court records show Jessie Darryl Duffield, 55, pleaded guilty in 1999 to rape by instrumentation, a charge he faced in Comanche County. Duffield was given a 25-year sentence, but was discharged in September 2010. He has since moved into Cherokee County.
Authorities went to the Briggs area Tuesday afternoon to check on Duffield and ensure he was staying at the address listed on his registration. But when they arrived in the area, police stumbled into something more than a compliance issue.
While checking the house of one of Duffield’s family members, authorities discovered two small children had been left in the trailer with elderly adults who didn’t appear capable of caring for the kids.
A strong stench of feces hit officers at the door, and on one end of the trailer, the children spoke to officers through an open window, which had been covered only with a piece of clear plastic.
“There’s feces all throughout the house; it’s horrible,” said Cherokee County Sheriff’s Sgt. Waylon Tarkington, who helped organize the compliance checks. “It looked like you were walking through a hoarder’s house.”
Officials with the Department of Human Services were called to the scene and immediately took the two children into custody.
According to Tarkington, authorities learned Duffield had not been staying at the address listed on his registration.
They found him at a home a few miles away and arrested him for an outstanding traffic warrant, with possible charges for failing to register as a sex offender.
Other violations were found elsewhere throughout the day.
At a home in the Cookson area, authorities confiscated a loaded firearm that was inside the bedroom of a sex offender convicted of second-degree rape. District 27 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force Director Mike Moore said charges of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm can be expected.
Police were satisfied to learn most of the convicted offenders checked on Tuesday were living within the requirements of law, and at the address they had listed in paperwork.
“And it seemed like the ones who weren’t home were all in compliance with rules and regulations, from what we could tell,” said Tarkington.
District Attorney Brian Kuester praised the efforts of the agencies that worked together during Tuesday’s sweep.
“These checks allowed officers to bring some children into custody out of a horrible situation,” said Kuester. “I can think of at least two times in recent history where the Drug Task Force has been out serving a warrant, the target being meth labs or some other issue, and they ended up finding a child in the home, and were able to rescue that child from the situation.”
Kuester believes offenders who know they will be checked are more likely to comply with registration laws in the future.
“I think it’s a good sign [most were in compliance Tuesday], and I think it’s a good message for law enforcement to send out,” said Kuester.
“Now they know they’re being checked on, and I believe that will cause them to continue their compliance. If they didn’t know someone was going to check up and verify that they were living where they were supposed to be living, they might make attempts to skirt the law.”
Tuesday’s compliance checks were conducted by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, the District 27 DTF, and several other agencies working through or with the local task force.
“It’s great to see all the different agencies coming together and working like they did today,” said Kuester.