Suspect in rape lost by system

Lack of scrutiny prompts outrage

October 12, 2007|By Justin Fenton and Bradley Olson | Justin Fenton and Bradley Olson,Sun reporters

Eugene Waller is a twice-convicted rapist who after spending nearly 30 years in prison has been charged repeatedly with crimes from indecent exposure to failing to register as a violent sex offender.

But in the months preceding this week's rape at a Linthicum light rail stop, no one was keeping an eye on him.

With the responsibility for monitoring Waller's whereabouts unclear, the 49-year-old drifter, whose listed address was a closed Baltimore homeless shelter, went unchecked.

FOR THE RECORD - An article on the front page of Friday's editions about a twice-convicted sex offender now accused of raping a woman in Linthicum incorrectly identified the agency that oversees light-rail service. It is the Maryland Transit Administration.
The Sun regrets the error.

Though he stood in an Anne Arundel County courthouse just last week, there was no warrant out for his arrest for failing to inform police of his location. And he was not listed on the Maryland sex offender registry's public Web site.

Victim advocates and lawmakers expressed outrage yesterday at the lack of scrutiny preceding Tuesday's arrest of Waller, who is accused of dragging a 22-year-old Linthicum woman into the woods and raping her at gunpoint - days after he was acquitted on technical grounds of charges that he exposed himself on the light rail line.

"When you have a breakdown in the system like this, it just further underscores the notion to victims that the criminal justice system doesn't work for you," said Jennifer Pollitt Hill, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "Sexual assault is drastically underreported in the criminal justice system because of things like this. Victims know the system still may not protect them in the end, so they opt not to participate."

Two years ago, officials said they were stepping up efforts to monitor sex offenders after Carl Preston Evans Jr., whose addresses entered in the registry were misspelled and outdated, was arrested in the July 2005 killing of his 13-year-old stepdaughter in Essex. The state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said it revamped its methods of tracking sex offenders when they were released from prison, as well as any arrests that might send them back to jail.

Sex offenders who do not register their most up-to-date address are typically sought on arrest warrants. A conviction on that charge would have meant jail time for Waller and would have triggered a probation violation for failing to register his change of address in 2005.

In another misstep, Waller was removed from the sex offender registry's public Web site after his most recent conviction - a standard procedure - but was never added back to the list.

Yesterday, officials acknowledged continuing problems that in some cases may obscure which police agency is responsible for tracking sex offenders.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, a Washington County Republican who has sponsored legislation dealing with Maryland sex offenders, called on the various police agencies who have been responsible for monitoring Waller to sort out how he fell through the cracks.

"We can pass all the laws we want to in Annapolis, but if those laws aren't carried out for whatever bureaucratic reason, they won't be able to protect the public," said Shank, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee. "It sounds like this guy was a ticking time bomb. Really, there is no safe place for people like this but in prison."

It remained unclear yesterday who should have been checking on Waller. Anne Arundel police said Waller moved to Baltimore and registered there as a sex offender. But a Baltimore police spokesman said that the county police were informed that no one was living at the listed address, which returned the responsibility of finding Waller to the Anne Arundel authorities.

David P. Wolinski, a retired police officer who manages the Maryland Sex Offender Registry program, said that police in the jurisdiction where the offender moves must make contact with that person and verify that he is living at the new address.

However, "if they go out to that address and find out that person didn't arrive at that address ... the case would remain with that previous jurisdiction," he said. "If he never came, that was bad information. We've got to go back to the previous jurisdiction and follow up."

Lt. David Waltemeyer, assistant commander of the Anne Arundel police criminal investigations division, said county officers made multiple attempts to reach out to city police to find Waller even though they believed he was no longer an offender they were required to track. While he was registered in Anne Arundel, police arrested him twice for failing to register a current address.

"Ultimately, the state runs the registry," he said. "They have to make the determination if this person resides in Anne Arundel County or the city. If they don't know, they have to take steps to ensure he's at the right address."

Waller's name was not restored to the sex offender registry's public Web site, which provides information about offenders' criminal records and where they live, and which some agencies use to compile lists of offenders in their communities who must be monitored, Wolinski said.

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