Oneida chief of police Darryl Laxton makes no bones about it: he does not want sex offenders living inside his town unless the address of their residence is registered so that his officers can keep tabs on them.
So it should be no surprise that Laxton was a little perplexed when a convicted sex offender classified by the state as “violent” was released from prison earlier this week with no known address.
Jimmie Culver Caldwell, 72, was released on parole by the Tennessee Department of Corrections. As a provision of his parole, and as a requirement of state law, he is required to be supervised for life as a convicted sex offender.
According to a notice of release by the Tennessee Board of Probation & Parole, sent to the district attorney general and all local law enforcement agencies when a prisoner is paroled, Caldwell was released from prison on Wednesday. Under the street address of where Caldwell plans to reside, the Board of Probation & Parole lists “homeless.”
Laxton was miffed by the homeless classification, calling it the first notification of release he has seen in his law enforcement career where a sex offender is listed as homeless.
“We need to know where convicted sex offenders are living at all times,” Laxton said. “That’s why the law says what it says. And parents deserve to know where convicted sex offenders are living. How do you keep up with them if they don’t have a permanent address?”
According to court records, Caldwell has a violent past involving sex crimes against children. He served prison time in the 1990s after being convicted of raping a child under the age of 13. According to records, the crime occurred on July 8, 1990. Three days later, he was indicted by a Scott County grand jury on charges of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and use of a firearm in the conviction of a felony. He later pled guilty to one count of aggravated rape and was sentenced to prison.
After being released from prison, Caldwell was arrested again on child sex charges. In November 2000, a grand jury indicted him on charges of rape of a child, involving a victim under the age of 13. Four months later, a separate grand jury indicted him on separate charges of solicitation of a minor and attempted rape of a child, once again involving a victim under the age of 13.
In November 2001, Caldwell entered into a plea agreement in those cases, pleading guilty to charges of solicitation of a minor and aggravated sexual battery. He was sentenced to two years in prison for the solicitation charge and 15 years in prison for the aggravated sexual battery charge. He remained in prison until being released on Wednesday.
According to state law, Caldwell had 48 hours after being released from prison to register as a sex offender. He did that on Thursday, records show, at the District 2A probation office in Clinton. However, his address was once again listed as “homeless.”
Tennessee law does not prohibit sex offenders from registering as homeless. However, law enforcement officers say it is highly unusual for violent sex offenders who are to remain on lifelong supervision to be released from prison without securing a place to live.
“Everyone deserves to know if a violent sex offender is living in their neighborhood,” Laxton said. “But if they’re living under a homeless status, who knows what neighborhood they’re living in? They can come and go.”
Jennifer Culver, a detective with the Scott County Sheriff’s Department who investigates sex crimes and enforces compliance with Tennessee’s sexual offender registration law, said that Caldwell is currently outfitted with a GPS monitoring device that will pinpoint his movements. “It is likely that he will be on GPS until the day he dies,” she said.
While law enforcement authorities can access information registered by the GPS should it become necessary to investigate a crime or otherwise locate Caldwell’s whereabouts, the location where he is staying will remain unknown to the general public.
In the meantime, Culver said, Caldwell will remain under the same restrictions as other sex offenders — he cannot live within 1,000 ft. of a place where children congregate, such as a school, daycare, park or playground, and he cannot live within 1,000 ft. of any of his former victims.
"For example, if he decided to sleep on a bench at the baseball field by Scott High, he would be in violation of the law," Culver said.
Sex offenders also cannot be inside any vehicle that is not registered to them. And because he is registered as homeless, Caldwell cannot occupy any residence. Should he secure a place to stay, he is required by law to notify authorities within 48 hours. Violation of any of those requirements is a felony, and could result in his parole being revoked.
It has been learned that after registering as a sex offender in Clinton on Thursday, Caldwell received a ride back to Scott County with an older couple who were unaware of his criminal background. Authorities say that, in and of itself, could have resulted in a felony charge against Caldwell had the vehicle been stopped by law enforcement officials while he was inside.
Tracking convicted sex offenders is a balancing act for law enforcement. On one hand, paroled offenders have paid their debt to society and are free to live among society so long as they follow the monitoring requirements of the state. On the other hand, law enforcement officers agree, parents deserve to know when offenders are living in their neighborhood.
Laxton said his department plans to keep tabs on Caldwell if he is found to be living inside the Oneida city limits to make sure he is not violating the restrictions placed on sexual offenders.