Sex offender charged after allegedly enticing children to visit Gastonia home

GASTONIA, N.C. — A registered sex offender was arrested after babysitting minors in his Gastonia home.

Eric Spurling is in jail under a $1 million bond and was given a court-appointed attorney.

Neighbors said Spurling was a magnet for neighborhood kids.

A search warrant obtained by Channel 9 details allegations Spurling has a basketball court, pool, trampoline and other toys, seemingly to attract children to his home.

Neighbors said they didn’t know he was a registered sex offender. They just knew he had an unusual affinity for children.

Now, police and sheriff's investigators are checking several phones and pieces of computer equipment, looking for video Spurling may have recorded of children he invited to his home.

One of those children reportedly told her mother that Spurling touched her while in the pool.

Spurling was previously convicted in Washington state of molesting a 13-year-old.

"It was a long time coming, honestly,” neighbor Casey Seagle said. "I think he is drawing the kids in."

Seagle said she had only heard rumors, but she didn't know her neighbor had a past conviction.

Neighbor Gena Rice's complaint sparked the investigation.

"He would ride up and down the road on a hoverboard while flying a drone,” Rice said. “Everything about that screams kid magnet."

Rice said she became concerned when Spurling invited children to sleep over in the camper without their parents.

A search warrant said he encouraged children who visited to change their clothes at his house.

Police said Spurling had a security system with indoor and outdoor cameras that he controlled from his phone.

"That makes me sick to my stomach,” Rice said.

Police who raided the house Wednesday are scouring video from several cellphones, cameras and pieces of computer equipment seized from the house.

Spurling has a daughter with whom he is allowed to be alone.

However, another adult has to be present when he is with other minors.

A Channel 9 viewer said she went to police about her concerns with Spurling months ago.

Police said they went to the home in June, but there was no police report, so they couldn't prove that he was alone with children then and couldn’t arrest him.

The viewer sent a Facebook message to police saying she just realized a registered sex offender lived in the neighborhood, and that she worried Spurling had a lot of neighborhood children visiting the swimming pool hidden by the privacy fence surrounding his backyard.

Police talked with him and left.

"I think it should have been checked into a little further,” neighbor Michelle Capps said.

Capps' 3-year-old and 5-year-old grandchildren live with her in a house right around the corner from Spurling.

Neighbors worry their community will never be the same.

"Used to be neighbors knew neighbors,” neighbor Jerry Waldrop said. “The doors were open, ‘Come on in.’”

This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for more information. 

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