From 18 to 78, sex offenders flocking to toughest county | Free News | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

They both victimized young girls in the same year. Both were born in July. They live less than three miles apart in the eastern part of Jones County. And now they share a space on the sex offender registry.

But that’s where the similarities end for Floyd Ishee, 78, and Noah Nightingale, 18, who are separated by 60 years.

They’re just two of the 125 registered sex offenders Investigator Wesley Waites of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department is in charge of keeping compliant with the guidelines they agreed to live by in order to stay in society instead of behind bars. That number will grow to 126 in December, when another offender is released from prison, making the 10th newcomer in a span of several weeks.

The influx of offenders to a county with a compliance officer who has been honored as the toughest in the state is a bit confusing. Waites doesn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for them.

“I don’t get it either,” he said with a chuckle. “We had one move here from California because of the ‘Home Town’ show.”

Newbies get the same introductory speech, and Waites makes them question their decision, no doubt.

“I tell them that if they obey the law and do what I say, we won’t have any problems,” he said. “But if you cross me, you will regret the day you set foot in Jones County. I will drop the hammer, put you in prison, then go home and sleep well that night.”

Nightingale is one of the most recent registrants. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of statutory rape in Lamar County at the end of March, when he was 17. The incident he admitted to actually happened in 2018 — when he was 13 and the girl who was his victim was 11.

After the charges were filed in Lamar County, two young girls in Jones County came forward and accused him of sexual battery. Trouble was, Nightingale was 12 when the incidents they reported occurred.

“The law says we can’t charge them until they’re 13,” Assistant District Attorney Kristen Martin said, “so he was off limits for our office.”

Nightingale received a 20-year suspended sentence with five years of supervised probation under the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Judge Prentiss Harrell also ordered him to pay $3,500 — which includes $1,500 to the Victims of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation Fund — and to earn his GED then learn a trade or get an associate’s degree.

And then there’s this provision: “The defendant is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his natural-born life and is not to have any contact with the victim for the rest of his natural-born life.”

Nightingale registered at an address on Bush Road, just off Township Road, on Sept. 14.

In addition to the photos and addresses, the registry also includes identifying characteristics of the offenders. For instance, Nightingale has a tattoo on his right forearm that reads: “Because of her I will not fall.”

Ishee also had three young girls accuse him of touching them inappropriately in 2018. He pleaded guilty in Jones County Circuit Court to three counts of touching a child for lustful purposes in 2019 and also received a suspended sentence. He is one of several local offenders in his 70s.

Ishee lives on Kennon Avenue, off Lower Myrick Road, and he also lists an address on Ovett-Moselle Road as a place he stays on occasion, which is a requirement for registered sex offenders. The guidelines are strict — and Waites is one of the strictest enforcers in the state.

The lone non-compliant sex offender in Jones County is Larry Lynn Gatlin, 52, of Soso, who was convicted of child molestation in 2020. He never made it to Waites’ office or his Mississippi Department of Corrections probation officer after being released from jail last month.

“He flew like a bird, but we will find him,” Waites said. “I have resources at MDOC and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force … and they really don’t play.”

Just last month, Waites was honored by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Registry for successfully maintaining compliance of all registered sex offenders within the county’s jurisdiction for a full year.

“We do not play when it comes to enforcement of the laws related to sex offenders and their compliance,” Waites said. “Jones County registered sex offenders know that we will issue an arrest warrant in a heartbeat if they fail to comply. Follow the law or go back to jail. That’s as simple as we can make it for them.”

The 21 rules sex offenders are required to read and initial include the requirement to report to a driver’s license station to re-register and get a new photo every 90 days. They must go there to report any change of address within 10 days and report any change of employment or school enrollment and even when they change vehicles or internet identifiers within three days.

If they work or volunteer somewhere that brings them into contact with children, they’re required to notify the people in charge, in writing, of their status.

Sex offenders also can’t live within 3,000 feet of a school, day care, playground or any other recreational facility that’s frequented by children — and they can’t even be within 500 feet of any school building or property while students are present. They even have to get permission from compliance personnel before visiting a public beach or campground.

They are also forbidden from contacting their victims in any manner or even being near their home, school or place of employment, unless they get a court order allowing it.

The consequences for failing to comply can be tough. At least two Jones County sex offenders — Luis Miguel Caraballo, 40 and Kenneth Wayne Navarro, 35 — are serving sentences behind bars for failure to register as required.

The Jones County sex offender registry is populated by people who are young and old, black and white, Hispanic, Native American, even a couple of women.

“In four years of doing this, I’ve learned a lot about every one of them,” Waites said. “Some of them are trying to do right … but some don’t change their spots. They’re predators, and we have to keep a close eye on them. They can’t roam free. We have to keep them in check. They have to be monitored.”

The recidivism rate for sex offenders is much higher than for other types of crimes, statistics show, which is the reason for all of the restrictions. Plus, what they steal can’t ever be replaced.

“That’s why I take it so seriously,” Waites said. “I think they should have GPS monitors on them. Most of their victims are under 14. I don’t want them to do that to anyone else — not on my watch. The victims and their families are scarred for life. Anything I can do to prevent that from happening to anyone else, I will.”

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