NEWSCHANNEL 5 Investigation: Sex Offenders

NEWSCHANNEL 5 investigates sex offenders in the Valley, and discovers information every parent should know. For information about sex offenders in your area, please visit the Texas State Sex Offender Web site: http://records.txdps.state.tx.us/

MISSION – Parents and police have expressed concern recently about how convicted sex offenders are tracked after they are released.

In Mission last week, convicted sex offender Ignacio Robullosa, 87, was arrested for allegedly trying to rape a little girl. Robullosa was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. But locals are concerned that Robullosa had a previous conviction for indecent exposure.

Similar cases have caused parents to wonder just how close sex offenders are getting to their kids and their schools.

According to information on the Texas State Sex Offender Web site, hundreds of registered sex offenders live with a mile of local schools.

Lori Peterson, 35, was convicted of molesting a child. Peterson was sentenced to 10 years for aggravated sexual assault of the 2-year-old. She is now on probation and lives in an apartment just down the street from a local school.

“‘Cause I was on drugs,” Peterson claimed is the reason she assaulted the child. Peterson said she was rehabilitated, and no longer has urges to molest children.

“I don’t need to be around kids,” Peterson said.

Out of 190 area schools, the sex offender Web site listed 33 schools with 10 or more sex offenders living with a mile of the school. Parents were surprised to learn their children may walk past Peterson’s home every day.

“It’s very scary. I wasn’t aware of this,” said parent Yesenia Mares.

“Sometimes these kids walk home alone. There’s a lot of abductions nowadays,” Mares said.

Other area parents were also concerned.

“Our kids are in danger,” said Sofia Saldana, who has grandchildren in the area.

“And not only my grandkids,” she said, “but all the ones in the school.”

Another registered sex offender, Christopher Merill, lives half a mile from an Edinburg elementary school. He was convicted of abusing a 10-year-old girl, but claimed he did not do it.

A neighbor of Merill said she worries about her 6-year-old daughter. She said a lot of children in the area ride bicycles outside on their own.

One victim of a sex offender said she was 14 when she was molested. “Sarah” agreed to talk about it provided her identity was concealed.

“I think it’s very enticing for a sex offender to be sitting outside his house and having kids walk by,” Sarah said, “there’s always that sexual gratification he wants for himself.

“(It is) definitely perverted,” she continued, “disgusting. Demoralizing. He’s taken away my childhood.”

Sarah described the nightmares she continued to have.

“‘Get away from me!'” she says, “‘Get away from me! Please don’t touch me! Leave me alone!’ And I yelled out his name.”

Sarah believes sex offenders have no business living near schools.

“It’s very easy for him to walk over there and look like a normal person while he’s preying on kids,” she said. “You can’t change their (the sex offender’s) mind,” Sarah said, “They’re sick people.

“They act on impulse,” she added.

District administrators said there is a system for alerting schools about sex offenders in the area. Usually, a notice is sent to the principal.

“It just gives us more information so we can have a heightened awareness,” said Harlingen superintendent Linda Wade. But Edinburg superintendent J.L. Salinas said she had no idea a sex offender was living nearby.

“I’m going to have to find out,” she said, if school officials would be notified. “I appreciate you bringing this information to us,” Salinas said, “because I’ll certainly let the principals know what is out there.”

In most areas, neighbors, parents and even school officials did not know sex offenders were living nearby.

“Nobody else knows,” Merill said, “I don’t tell anybody because its embarrassing.”

The information is available online at the Texas Department of Public Safety Web site. Authorities said sex offenders are four times more likely to repeat their crimes than other criminals.

Some valley police departments are working to track them. Mission has two officers on staff responsible for monitoring dozens of sex offenders. No laws restrict where they live, but authorities said they do keep a close eye on sex offenders living near schools.

“Because of the age of children, of course, and their security,” said Mission police spokesman Martin Garza.

Sex offenders are required by law to register in their state. If they fail to register, a warrant is issued for their arrest.

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