States consider legislation to track sex offenders at nursing homes

(WMC-TV) - There's enough to worry about already when you put a loved one in a nursing home, but have you ever thought about the registered sex offenders who live there? Some states are considering legislation to warn potential tenants of the risk of moving in.

Wes Bledsoe is the founder of A Perfect Cause, a nursing home watchdog group. A Perfect Cause documented more than 60 suspected rapes, sexual assaults, physical assaults and murders committed by people living in long-term care facilities nationwide.

"Who else would be so vulnerable except a small child?" he asked.

One victim WAS a small child: a 3-year-old girl visiting family at a Texas nursing home where a registered sex offender lived.

"There needs to be notification of every entrant into the facility that there is a violent or sexual offender in that facility," Bledsoe said. "That way, when we have school groups, church groups or civic groups coming to entertain these residents – these children - we can make sure they're being protected."

Currently, A Perfect Cause reports 1,800 registered sex offenders living in nursing homes around the country.

Tonya Glassco researched at least four facilities before choosing one for her mother-in-law, and each time she asked if sex offenders lived there.

"Yes, I did, because there are some dirty old people out there," she said.

But aside from state sex offender registries, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas do not require notification be given to nursing home residents or their families when a sex offender moves in.

Lawmakers in Alabama are considering a bill that would do just that.

"What this bill does is mandate to the owners of the nursing home or assisted living facility that if they receive an individual who may be a sexual predator that they notify first the residents, then the Department of Senior Services, and also the local D.A. that that individual is in that facility," Rep. Jeremy Oden said.

The Action News 5 Investigators discovered at least two registered sex offenders who list a Memphis nursing home as their address.

- Johnny Kilpatrick was convicted of sexual battery in 1998. He now lives at Spring Gate Rehab and Rehabilitation on Old Covinginton Pike. A manager there didn't know he was a registered sex offender until the Action News 5 Investigators called. The manager said, "We want to make sure our residents are protected. Mr. Kilpatrick is harmless, he won't endanger anybody. We will address it."

- A Shelby County jury convicted Joseph White of rape. According to the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, White lives at Ashton Place on Walnut Grove. But Ashton Place told Memphis police that White hasn't been there in two years. As cops were obtaining a warrant for White, they quickly discovered he was already dead.

Back in Alabama, there is opposition to the bill that would require sex offender notification to be given to residents and their families. But for Wes Bledsoe, it is a cause worth fighting for.

"Many of these people do not have the mental capacity to protect themselves from an assault, and many of them do not have the ability to report what has happened to them," he said.

The manager at Ashton Place said the facility checks residents against the sex offender registry, and doesn't allow sex offenders to live there.

You can screen your loved one's nursing home yourself. Click here to visit the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry.

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