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Tracking sex offenders where you live | News

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Tracking sex offenders where you live

ID=27672845You try to keep your kids safe, keeping an eye out for any unusual people on the playground, at dance class and around school.

The state of Georgia tries, too, banning some sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of places where kids gather. But how knowledgeable are you about who's living next door, down the street, or even in your own home?

13WMAZ spoke to one woman who says she could never have imagined the man she was dating had a hidden past.

"He was wonderful. It was like he could never do enough for people, for the kids, for the house," Kristia Walker said. "He was like a dream come true, like the perfect man. He was charming, exceptionally smart, paid the bills on time, did the dishes."

She met Andrew Christopher Ellis, who went by "Wayne," three years ago on an online dating site. They dated for several years and for a while, they even shared a home. But dig a little deeper: Ellis had a secret.

"He had to be this great guy and this knight in shining armor because he had to hide another portion of him that had an illness or an addiction," Walker said.

Ellis faces 12 counts of sexual exploitation of children by having images of children in sexual conduct. He has pleaded not guilty.

"I feel very betrayed," Walker told 13WMAZ.

In 2013, when GBI agents swarmed their home, seizing laptops and phones, Walker thought it had to be a mistake.

"What they were saying and the man they were describing was not the person that I knew, that I was living with, that I had my children around," she said. "When the reality sank in, I was terrified."

She says a special agent told her what they suspected, and that they'd been watching him.

"Usually when I'd take the kids to the grocery store for 30 minutes, that's when [the GBI] said he was logged on to these inappropriate sites. He was doing it secretly," Walker said. "I never suspected it."

It's not the first time Ellis has been charged with possessing child pornography. In 2005, before Walker says she met Ellis, he pleaded guilty to similar charges. Under a plea deal, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison but had to serve only five, with the remaining five under probation.

Walker says Ellis admitted he'd been to prison but said it was for a bar fight. Eventually, she says he convinced her the GBI had the wrong guy. Looking back, she wishes she'd checked sex offender registries, available at many local sheriff's departments and online.

"Take a minute to look at the sex offenders mugshots because it might be some guy walking through the park that your children are playing in," she said.

Bleckley County investigator Jeff Simpson says not every registered sex offender is a predator, and that there's no evidence Ellis ever touched a child. But Simpson says he can't tolerate this or any sexual crime.

"It's sick. There's no other way to put it," Simpson said.

He's been tracking Ellis, one of 50 registered sex offenders in Bleckley County. Under Georgia law, sex offenders have to re-register with their local Sheriff's Department if they change addresses and within 72 hours of each birthday. But in April, Simpson says Ellis tried to flee.

"[Ellis] absconded from our county," Simpson said. "He left in the middle of the night."

Prosecutors say Ellis skipped town and hid out at the Days Inn in Macon, more than 60 miles away. He was arrested on April 13. He's now facing a separate charge for failure to register in Bleckley County.

"He told me he was going off the grid," Walker said.

Walker says Ellis showed her a fake ID with the name "Christian Kendall" from Washington. It's the same identification card authorities say he used to check into the Days Inn.

"I'm faced with a man who had nothing left to lose. I was scared how to handle the situation and how to get myself and my children away from him safely," she said.

What Walker believed to be her reality shattered, and she's still in shock.

"You wouldn't typically think he'd fit the profile of that," Walker said.

But Simpson says that's the danger: there isn't a profile.

"I'm a parent before I'm a cop. I'm not going to take any chance with my children," he said.

"Just be careful of who you're with, because I was blown away. I didn't see any signs," Walker said. "It's just something as a mother, I just want other mothers to be aware of that."

You can search for sex offenders by name or address on the state Department of Corrections website or on GBI's sex offender registry. You can also search your local Sheriff's Department website and enter your address to find a list of the sex offenders near you.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ and on Twitter @anita_oh.


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