Lawmakers demand change in sex offender law after investigation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Lawmakers demand change in sex offender law after investigation

By Justin Hanson - bio | email | Facebook

COVINGTON, TN (WMC-TV) - Action News 5 is putting a stop to greetings from a sex offender.

It all started with a Tipton County man, in jail for sex crimes against children, who kept sending cards and letters to his young victims.

A loophole in the law let him do it.  Now thanks to the Action News 5 Investigators, state lawmakers said they are going to close that loophole.

"Happy birthday, I hope you have a wonderful day and following year. I cannot believe my little tot-tot is already a teenager," read Tipton County Deputy Chief Donna Turner. 

It was those words inside a greeting card that sent chills down the spine of Tennessee Representative Barrett Rich.

"I was blown away," said Rich.  "It's was extraordinarily disturbing."

Earlier this month, an Action News 5 investigation centered on Terry Bernard McConnell, locked up on a child rape conviction, who continuously sent cards and letters to his two young female victims from jail.

Despite violating a court order not to contact his victims, authorities could not go after McConnell with more charges because he was not a registered sex offender.

Of the 2,921 Tennessee inmates convicted of sex crimes, only 801 of them are on the sex offender registry because of a loophole in the law.

"This just goes to show you the laws weren't updated to make victims feel safe and secure," Rich continued.

In 2007, state law changed giving local jurisdictions only the option to register sex offenders between conviction and sentencing. 

Those convicted before 2007 are not forced to register until they are released from jail.

McConnell was convicted in 2004.

"The main thing here is to get them on the registry so that laws apply and they cannot contact their victims," said Rich.

Representative Rich has drafted a bill in the state house that would force those prisoners not on the registry to get registered by August of this year. 

"One victim being victimized even more because of some silly loophole in the law, and I expect everyone is going to act on this in the appropriate manner," he added.

This law could finally stop McConnell and others like him from sending any more greetings from a sex offender.

Within hours of our initial investigation, Terry McConnell was registered as a sex offender.

State Representatives Jimmy Naifeh of Covington and Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley said they are on board with Rich's legislation.

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