Man convicted of sex crimes sends cards to child victims - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Man convicted of sex crimes sends cards to child victims

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COVINGTON, TN -

By Justin Hanson - bio | email

COVINGTON, TN (WMC-TV) - The Action News 5 Investigators are on the case of a man convicted of sex crimes against children, who just won't stop contacting those children.

He does it through the mailbox.

"Happy birthday, I hope you have a wonderful day and following year.  I cannot believe my little tot-tot is already a teenager.  You might be tired of me writing this but I can't get over how fast you are growing up," read Donna Turner with the Tipton County Sheriff's Department. 

Turner was reading from birthday and Christmas cards sent from by sex offender from jail to his young victims.

"In child abuse cases, it's something you deal with for the rest of your life and this card has put them back to the very day it all started...the very first time they were abused," Turner said.

Terry Bernard McConnell is the convict who sent the cards, convicted of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery involving two female victims. He's locked up until 2019.

"As of now, he is not a registered sex offender," Turner said.

And that, investigators say, is the problem.

"There is a law that says if you are convicted of a crime against a minor and you are a registered sex offender you are not allowed to have contact with that minor," Turner said.

McConnell is not on the sex offender registry because he was convicted prior to 2007, the year Tennessee law changed giving local jurisdictions the option to register sex offenders between conviction and sentencing.

Unless the law changes again, McConnell won't be registered until he's released from prison.

"The reason for the registry is to let the public know where these sex offenders are living, and if they're in prison, everybody knows where they are," said TBI spokesperson Kristin Helm.

But Tipton County investigators say if McConnell was already on the registry they would have more ammo to stop the cards.

"He would be facing a felony instead of a violation of a court order," Turner said. "If he had been put on the sex offender list, it would have resulted in an additional charge, a new charge, even though he's in prison. However, that is not in place in this case."

Of the 2,921 inmates locked up in Tennessee for sex crimes right now, only 801 of them are on the sex offender registry, either because they went to jail before 2007 or because local jurisdictions decided not to register them before sentencing. 

That makes stopping this kind of contact difficult, despite a no-contact order.

Action News 5 asked the Department of Corrections why they can't just put a stop to McConnell sending the cards, and why they don't have someone inspect his outgoing mail like they do his incoming mail. 

A DOC spokesperson told us their authority to review outgoing mail is much more restricted, and there's simply not enough staff to monitor what goes out.

"Obviously he is going to blatantly do what he wants to do to have some kind of initiated contact with these children," Turner said.

And that means cards like this could keep coming.

The public defender who represented Terry McConnell in 2003 said his services stopped after McConnell's conviction, and that he was unaware of a no-contact order.

The Tipton County Sheriff's Office met with the D-A's office this week to discuss possible charges against McConnell.

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