Sheriff’s office launches internal investigation

Published 8:00 am Saturday, September 14, 2019

VALLEY — The Chambers County Sheriff’s Department has launched an internal investigation to determine why nearby residents weren’t notified of a sex offender living in the area.

Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart said his staff is investigating why the notice didn’t reach nearby residents.

“We are trying to get to the bottom of the situation,” he said. “We are still investigating what happened.”

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St. George is listed on the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s sex offender website and has him listed as living at 1406 27th Street at Apartment A in Valley.

According to the Valley Police Department, that offender, Corderell Deonrea St. George, 29, was living near a woman in the 1400 block of 27th Street on Sept. 2 when he broke into the woman’s home, hit her in the head with a hammer and attempted to rape her.

Police records reveal the victim said she was asleep in her bed when she was woken by a sharp pain in her head. She told police that when she opened her eyes she saw her neighbor standing over her holding a hammer and groping her.

St. George was later arrested in his residence on the same block and was incarcerated.

Court records show that St. George was arrested in February 2014 on aggravated assault with intent to rape and false imprisonment in Muscogee County. He was convicted on those charges in June 2015.

According to Steve Hayes, director of the Office of Communication with the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, St. George was sentenced to serve three years in prison and 17 years on court-ordered probation.

Hayes told The Valley Times-News that the St. George served all but six months of the three-year prison term before being paroled. His beginning incarceration date was Feb. 28, 2014, and the Georgia Department of Corrections has his release date as Aug. 24, 2016. His original release date was scheduled for Feb. 27, 2017.

According to Hayes, St. George’s parole ended on Feb. 27, 2017, and beyond that date, he was serving his court-ordered probation.

After his release, Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart said St. George moved to Lee County for some time and then to Chambers County.

The sheriff’s office contracts with a service called OffenderWatch, which notifies area residents when a sex offender moves into their area.

According to the OffenderWatch website, the service provides community notification with built-in neighborhood maps, automated email distribution and postcards about sex offenders in the area.

Mike Cormaci, president of OffenderWatch, told The Valley Times-News that its services offer a database for which counties can import sex offender information and post it to their website.

When an offender moves from one county to another, the agency responsible for that offender then imports the information to OffenderWatch. 

Cormaci said OffenderWatch also offers a mailing service, which will send out a notification to all residences within the required distance that a sex offender has moved into the area.

According to Alabama Statute, law enforcement agencies are required to notify the public but it is unclear how fast that notification must go out.

According to records with OffenderWatch, St. George registered with the Lee County Sheriff’s office on Sept. 28, 2016. Then, he registered with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office on April 8, 2019, only to register with Lee County again on April 16.

Finally, Cormaci said St. George registered with Chambers County once again on Aug. 19.

Cormaci said his records showed the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office did not request a mailing to go out to nearby residents until Sept. 4.

It is unclear if the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office attempted to verify St. George’s Valley address between Aug. 19 and Sept. 2.

Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon said the only connection he could find between St. George and the victim from the incident Sept. 2 was that they were neighbors.

He said it is frustrating to deal with felons with sexual crimes on their records, and he agreed that it would make sense in terms of sentencing if the courts required those offenders to serve at least 50 percent or 100 percent of their sentence.

“If they had held him for the full sentence or two-thirds of it, we wouldn’t have had to deal with it,” Weldon said.