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Unregistered sex offenders sough by sheriff

Sheriff Tim Sexton has released the names of five sex offenders who are thought to be living in or who are supposed to be living in Lawrence County but who have not registered with his office as required by law.

The five people either have outstanding warrants against them now or local officials are in the process of filing charges against them for failure to comply with the sex offender notification laws.

“The public can help,” Sexton said. “They can go onto our Web site or the attorney general’s Web site and check to see if a sex offender is living at the address beside them or two doors down or whatever and notice if they have seen that person at that address lately. If the sex offender is not where they are supposed to be, call us.”

Who are they?

Tammy Lanette Payton, 37, is classified as a sexually oriented offender. She is 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighs approximately 150 pounds and has sandy brown hair and blue eyes. She was convicted in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court in 2001 of rape and complicity to rape.

Robert Dwane Helms, 39, is classified as a sexual predator. He was convicted in Illinois and then moved to West Virginia. He was said to have moved to Lawrence County since then. He is 6 feet two inches tall and weighs approximately 180 pounds. He has dark hair and brown eyes.

Hershel Alvin Vanhoose, 33, is classified as a sexually oriented offender.

He was convicted in 2003 in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court for gross sexual imposition.

“He reports himself to be homeless but he still has to tell us where (generally) he is going to be. If he is homeless in Ironton, he has to tell us he is homeless but living somewhere in Ironton,” said Bill Winters, who handles the sex offender registry for the sheriff’s office. “He is also supposed to check in with his parole officer and he isn’t doing that, either.”

Vanhoose is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs approximately 185 pounds. He has dark hair and hazel eyes.

Robin Ruggles, 46, is classified as a sexually oriented offender and is considered to be dangerous with violent tendencies. He pleaded guilty in 2004 in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court to gross sexual imposition. He is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs approximately 150 pounds. He is balding with very short dark hair and brown eyes.

Samuel Lawton Butler, 40, is classified as a sexually oriented offender. Winters said he is supposed to have moved to Lawrence County from West Virginia but like the others, has failed to register with the sheriff’s office. He is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs approximately 179 pounds. He is balding with dark hair.

Why are they wanted?

Some of the sex offenders are supposed to have moved here from outside Lawrence County and have yet to register here; others have moved from one location in the county to another and have not changed their registration.

Sexton said if a sex offender who is required to register with his office moves from one address to another, he or she must notify the sheriff’s office of the address change. If they change the configuration of their household, they may also be required to alert authorities of this, since some sex offenders are prohibited from living in a home with children, for instance.

It’s the law

In July of this year, older sex offender registration laws were strengthened by the federal Adam Walsh Act. Under the Walsh act, a sexually oriented offender must register once a year for 20 years. Habitually oriented offenders fall into two categories: Those who must register and those who are not required to do so. Those who must register are required to do so twice a year for 25 years. Finally, those classified as a sexual predator have a lifetime requirement to register every three months.

State law requires sheriff’s offices to conduct yearly home checks to make sure sex offenders are living where they say they are and are otherwise not breaking the law. Sexton said his deputies conduct such checks more frequently.

A long list

Sexton said several years ago when the county began registering sex offenders, 19 people were on Lawrence County’s sex offender rolls. Now there are more than 80. Winters added that an additional 13 people from Lawrence County have either been arrested for sex crimes and are awaiting resolution of their cases, or have been convicted and now await transfer to prison or are in the prison system now but have said they plan to return to Lawrence County after they are released from prison.