OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Just one day after Loomes Wheeler cut off his ankle monitors and fled, the bondsman responsible for Wheeler, and over $200,000 due to the court, was discharged from having to pay.
"In 36 years I've never heard of a court discharging a bond when the defendant has run away," said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.
The Osceola Clerk's Office verified that Judge Mark Blechman let Miller Bail Bonds off the hook without a hearing and without any parties in the courtroom, meaning taxpayers would not get hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to the state.
"The bondsman had no reason to go hunt down this individual," Sheaffer said.
Less than two hours after Eyewitness News started making calls and writing emails to the judge, the Clerk's Office and the Sheriff's Office, an order appeared on the clerk's website saying the discharge of the bond was an error.
Sheaffer's sources inside the courthouse also say Judge Blechman only ordered the bond revoked after Wheeler fled.
"I have it from a very informed source that the judge first learned about this error because of the Channel 9 investigation," Sheaffer said.
The Clerk's Office took that to mean the bond was to be discharged and so the office on its own used the judge's electronic signature.
A spokesperson with the Clerk's Office couldn't confirm that information because it was late in the day.
Eyewitness News tried to contact Blechman by email and through court administration but did not get a response.
Channel 9 is getting answers as to why a private GPS system failed to keep track of a child predator suspect in Osceola County.
Investigators said an alarm to Court Resources that 70-year-old Loomes Wheeler Jr. was no longer at his residence went out at 1:49 a.m. Monday, but the Sheriff's Office wasn't notified until after 8 a.m.
Eyewitness News obtained an email from the State Attorney's Office that shows the monitoring company did not alert them or law enforcement until several hours later.
"(The judge) had no choice but to set a bond in this case," said Sheaffer. "The, judge (went) far beyond just setting the bond, however, and employed the third-party GPS monitoring to make sure that the defendant would appear at future court proceedings."
Sheaffer said the court didn't have any evidence that would have suggested Wheeler would have run away.
"It wasn't the court's fault that this person cut his monitors off and absconded, that's the failure in the system," he said.
According to investigators, one of Wheeler's GPS ankle monitors was found in a wooded area near his home, and the other was found on the driveway of his home.
Investigators said Wheeler, the owner of Horse World, was arrested April 16 and charged with nine counts of capital sexual battery, four counts of lewd and lascivious conduct and three counts of sexual performance by a child.
According to investigators, a 9-year-old told them she had been battered by Wheeler, a relative, a number of times from the time she was 5 years old.
The girl told investigators that the alleged encounters happened at Wheeler's home and at his place of business, Horse World Riding Stables in Kissimmee.
On April 25, Wheeler was arrested again after a 20-year-old woman told authorities that Wheeler, a relative, touched her inappropriately when she was 7 or 8 years old, investigators said.
According to investigators, the woman told them the last incident she could remember with Wheeler was when she was 16.
Wheeler was charged with three counts of lewd or lascivious molestation, investigators said.
Court Resources officials said Wheeler had two bracelets because the signal is weak in the area where he resides. One is for inside the home, the other for outside the home but still on the property.
Wheeler is a white male, 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. He has gray hair and green eyes. He was last seen in the area of Granada Boulevard in Kissimmee.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Osceola County Sheriff's Office at 407-348-2222 or Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS (8477).