Most states don’t prohibit a sex offender like Harold Dwayne English to moving in next to one of his victims. It happened this year in Oklahoma.
A convicted sex offender who molested his niece when she was 7 moved in next door to her in June, nearly a dozen years after he was sent to prison for the crime. Outraged, the Oklahoma victim, now 21, called lawmakers, the police and advocacy groups to object. Danyelle Dyer discovered that what Harold Dwayne English did is perfectly legal in the state, as well as in 44 others that don’t specifically bar sex offenders from living near their victims, says the National Conference of State Legislatures. “I always felt safe in my home, but it made me feel like I couldn’t go home, I couldn’t have my safe space anymore,” Dyer told The Associated Press. She agreed to be identified in the hope of drawing attention to the issue. “He would mow in between our houses. Him moving in brought back a lot of those feelings.”
Advocacy groups say the Oklahoma case appears to be among the first where a sex offender has exploited the loophole, which helps explain why other states have unknowingly allowed it to exist. “This is something that I would dare say was never envisioned would happen,” said Richard Barajas of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. “In all the years that I’ve been involved with the criminal justice system, I’ve never seen a case like this.” Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia have laws specifying how far away sex offenders must stay from their victims — 1,000 feet in Tennessee and 2,000 feet in Arkansas. Other states haven’t addressed the issue, though like Oklahoma they have laws prohibiting sex offenders from living close to a church, school, day care, park or other facility where children are present.