Court ruling means some Okla. sex offenders will be removed from registry

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BRYAN COUNTY, OK -- Martin Daniel Bowles, convicted in Florida for Lewd or Indecent proposals or acts to a child, now lives in Bryan County as a Class 3 sex offender - the most dangerous tier.

But under a recent state supreme court ruling he'll be wiped from the sex-offender registry in February.

"He was going to be a life-timer, because he was convicted out of state. But now his time will be minimized," said Kimberley Weaver, Bryan County Sheriff's Office criminal investigator.

A 2007 state law set up the 3-tier classification for offenders, basing how long offenders have to register on the severity of their crimes. But it applied to all offenders - even those convicted before the law, who at the time were only required to register for 10 years.

"The supreme court has come back and said no, they have to go by the laws of 1990. They can't make anything retroactive," Weaver said.

That means someone convicted of an aggravated sex crime today has to register for life. But someone who committed the same crime in 2002 is already wiped from the system.

"They could be in the wind, and we won't know where they're at," Weaver said.

In Bryan County, eight people have been cleared from the registry already. And they continue to receive letters from DOC notifying them of offenders whose time has been decreased by the court ruling, Weaver said.

And that hits home for Durant resident Casey Morgan.

"I was raped at the age of 15 when I was in school. And the people that done that to me wasn't registered as a sex offender," she said.

It's not sitting well with other Oklahoma residents either.

"I don't trust people like that, because I feel like they never change," Glenda Beall said.

"I have a little brother, and I have a daughter, maybe, so it is concerning," Cody Waldrop said.

In Texas, how long a sex offender has to register is also based on the severity of their crimes.

But Joe Brown, Grayson County district attorney, said the state only imposes restrictions if they're on probation or parole.

"If they're not on probation or parole, there aren't requirements on where they live, except from the cities. Some cities have extra requirements," he said.

In Sherman, it's illegal for a sex offender to live within 1,500 feet of a school or park - anywhere children commonly gather. But looking at it on a map, it's only about four blocks away.

But some parents, like Pottsboro Resident Jason Volcik, are more worried about cyber distance.

"I mean if they're walking down the street and my daughter was outside I can say hey come in the house," he said. "But if they're behind the computer they can lure them in there saying they're one of their friends' cousins, or a family member. Anything."

Brown said state law already applies to social media for sex offenders on probation.

"They can't communicate online with children. They can't do social networking. They have to take polygraphs regularly to see if they're lying," he said.

But Volick said as a parent, he's still vigilant because anyone can hide their identity online.

"She knows what people do, and how they act. I hope she knows what to look for," he said.

Weaver said with the new Oklahoma law officials could lose track of offenders who might still be dangerous.

"There's always the potential for threat of harm," she said.