GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - A Sheriff's Office is going name by name, investigating hundreds of sex offenders after a recent law closed a loophole.
Roger and Sandra Woods own a home day care on Timberwood Drive in Gastonia. They were upset when they learned a sex offender was moving in right behind their day care.
“We found out through the sex offender registry,” Sandra Woods said.
Willie Thompson had just gotten out of prison for raping a 13-year-old girl.
“It's scary,” Woods said.
They weren't the only ones upset. Neighbors with kids also began calling the Gaston County Sheriff's Office, but they were told Thompson was allowed to move in because of a legal loophole. It said sex offenders could move into a home if an immediate family member has lived there since before 2006.
So neighbors got together. They contacted Whistleblower 9, and one found a change in that law passed just last year. It closed the loophole, saying the offender had to have lived in the home prior to 2006, not just family members.
Capt. Garry Williams, with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, was able to clarify the law with a state attorney and immediately went to Thompson’s home. He found it was too close.
“At that point, we contacted this particular sex offender and informed him that he would need to move,” Williams said.
And it doesn't stop there. Now he has a team going through nearly 400 registered sex offenders in Gaston County to find others who could have to move too.
“It will affect some,” Williams said. “We're going to review everyone.”
Williams said it’s important.
“We take it seriously,” Williams said.
Roger and Sandra Woods are relieved the convicted child rapist in their neighborhood will soon be out of sight.
“Absolutely. It will take a lot fear away from a lot of neighbors and even me,” Woods said.
Channel 9 went to Thompson’s home Thursday, but a family member declined to comment on his behalf.
The Sheriff's said he has been cooperating and is actively looking for a new place to live.