Nine of Howard County's 76 registered sex offenders remained at large yesterday after police visited their homes to verify their addresses in the statewide registry of child molesters, rapists and other violators, Chief Wayne Livesay said.
Howard County police began the investigation July 26 when the search for a convicted rapist accused of killing his teenage stepdaughter in Essex highlighted statewide gaps in the voluntary reporting system that tracks about 4,300 sex offenders. Carl Preston Evans Jr., 35, remained a fugitive as of yesterday.
"We wanted to be proactive," Livesay said. "I will be mandating more frequent checks in the future."
A judge issued warrants Wednesday for 13 missing sex offenders in Howard County. Police arrested two that day and one yesterday. Another turned himself in. Howard County police are searching electronic databases and financial and payroll records to track the nine remaining offenders.
All could be charged with misdemeanors for failing to report a move or falsifying their addresses under a state law passed in 1995, one year after Congress required states to track sex offenders under what is called "Megan's Law." Violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and a maximum three-year prison sentence.
Until now, Howard County police visited a sex offender's home only once after he or she registered for the first time in the county.
Five of the nine people being sought in Howard County have sexually abused children, three are classified as "sexually violent offenders" and one is listed on the registry as an "offender." Two of the nine already are awaiting trial for failing to keep their addresses in the registry up to date.
Howard County DetectiveCpl. Matthew Tanis said that the regional Warrant Fugitive Task Force has been given the list of the nine wanted offenders and orders to "go until they're done."
"We have leads on almost all of them," he said.
Livesay also noted that the noncompliance rate for the registry in Howard County is 17 percent, which is better than the national average of 24 percent.
Meanwhile, FBI agents and police in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina have joined the search for Evans, a Baltimore County police official said this week. Police say Evans set his Essex rowhouse on fire to cover up the killing of Breaunna Floyd, 13, who was stabbed repeatedly July 25. His address in the state registry turned out to be misspelled and unconfirmed.
Baltimore County police also are investigating Evans' medical background. He is diabetic and requires shots three times a day. Police say they suspect that he doesn't have insulin or a prescription, and they are examining recent burglaries and thefts in various areas for clues to his whereabouts, said Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Baltimore County department.
"When you have a violent criminal out there, you do everything possible," Toohey said.
Already the case is prompting a push for reform.
Of the approximately 4,300 offenders on Maryland's registry, three-fourths are child sex offenders and are required to confirm their address in person at a law enforcement agency annually for life. But state data indicate that the registry contains questionable or unknown addresses for as many as one in five registered offenders.
State public safety officials want the General Assembly to approve a law that would require "sexually violent offenders" and those classified as "offenders" to register annually in person at a police or sheriff's department, rather than via mail, said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the state's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
To view photos of the wanted offenders, log on to www.baltimoresun.com.
Sun staff writer Laura Barnhardt contributed to this article.