9 Investigates missing sex offenders

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ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigates found out more than 100 sexual offenders and predators across central Florida have disappeared, and almost 50 percent of those took off from Orange County.

They're supposed to be registered with the state, but Channel 9's Kenneth Craig found some have eluded capture for years.

Craig asked local authorities what they're doing to find the missing offenders, and he even looked for several himself.

The long list of absconders includes Julio Reyes Jr., who was convicted of sexual battery on a child, and sexual predator James Brown, convicted of similar charges.

Their names and pictures appear on the state's sex offender registry, which is designed to help families track and monitor offenders. But finding them in person is nearly impossible because they're among more than 700 offenders statewide who have simply vanished.

No one, including law enforcement, can seem to find them, Craig learned through his investigation.

"Just the total number of sex offenders is scary, and now the number they've lost track of is hard to believe," said Maitland resident Ron Macnichol.

They're labeled as "absconders" and Craig spent weeks researching cases and trying track down some of the more than 100 in central Florida. Using background searches, Craig found dozens of addresses linked to the absconders, and he knocked on doors across the region.

For instance, Craig went to the home where convicted rapist Thomas Resh once lived. Residents there told Craig that Resh left for the store a few years ago and never returned.

In Seminole County, deputies took Channel 9 along and showed how they go door to door, checking up on registered sex offenders four times a year.

Officials said other teams of deputies in Seminole work to find the sex offenders who have disappeared as well.

Heather Smith, with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, said those deputies seeking out the absconders are busy "trying to find their addresses, checking various databases (and) talking to people who know them."

State sex offender records show that Orange County has far and away the most absconded sex offenders locally with more than 40 missing when Cannel 9 last checked.

More than 60 have taken off from surrounding counties, including Lake, Seminole, Osceola, Volusia, Brevard and Polk.

"That's kind of scary," said Sanford's Cheryl Martin. "That's real scary."

Craig spoke with Angelo Nieves with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

"How are these guys able to just vanish, and why isn't as simple as going out and arresting them?" Craig asked.

"You have some situations where individuals don't want to be caught," Nieves said.

Orange County investigators were quick to point out that during the last five years, they've caught some 300 absconders, but for some residents, that's not enough.

"There should be a better way for the system to work, so they don't disappear," said Orlando's Violet Fleck.

One absconder, Chester Bradley, is wanted for failure to register as a sex offender. Officials in Seminole said he failed to update his driver's license and let authorities know he had left his permanent address.

 Yet while most absconders leave the area and even the state when they take off, Seminole officials suspect Chester may still be living in central Florida.

Anyone with information about Bradley is asked to call CrimeLine at 800-423-TIPS or the sheriff’s office at 407-665-6650.

Here’s a link to Bradley’s flyer and photo with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement: http://offender.fdle.state.fl.us/offender/flyer.do?personid=71028