- Special Sections
- Auto Racing
Two hundred twelve registered sex offenders live in Catawba County.
Their crimes range from indecent liberty with a minor and computer solicitation for sex to first-degree sex offense and second-degree rape.
Catawba County Sheriff's Office is charged with monitoring sex offenders and their compliance with the conditions of their offenses.
Sex offenders are required to register with their county's sheriff's office, and sheriff's deputies then compile the information and enter it in the registry database, said Catawba County Sheriff's Office Lt. B.L. Baker.
What is a sex offense?
Like many criminal offenses, sexual offenses are complex and varied.
The type and severity of sex offenses also vary depending on the perpetrator and any aggravating factors.
Once someone is convicted of certain sex offenses, he or she is required to register with the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry program, which include photographs, addresses and ages of offenders.
Registry is required for people convicted of a least one of about 20 applicable offenses. These include prostitution of a minor, indecent liberties with a child, as well as felonious restraint of a minor.
"Usually when they come in to register, we make them read all the rules and regulations, and we let them know we're serious," Baker said, adding any sex offender found in violation of their conditions will be prosecuted.
And because of the county's strong stance against sex offenders, Baker reported almost no problems keeping the offenders in compliance.
"We do have some that you call 'problem children,'" Baker said.
"They're the ones who have problems reporting their address changes or other things like that."
But not everyone on the sex offender registry is a sexual predator or a pedophile.
"Not all sex offenders are pedophiles," Baker said. "And that's a common misconception."
Some sex offenses, such as incest between close relatives, don't necessarily involved a young child; therefore, don't constitute a pedophile crime.
Where do sex offenders live?
About 32 sex offenders live within a 3-mile radius around Newton, but Newton hasn't reported many problems with its residents who are registered offenders. Police Chief Don Brown said officers sometimes receive calls reporting an offender in an area the offender isn't allowed to be, like a park or a school, and then police act to remove the offender from that location.
"Should we encounter them in a place where they're not supposed to be, we act on that," Brown said.
Baker said all registered sex offenders are required to stay at least 300 feet away from a park and 1,000 feet away from a school.
Reports of sex offender noncompliance come in, like any other reported crime or violation, from residents, citizens or organization officials. "We do occasionally have (sex offenders) turn up at schools to pick up their children," Brown said. "But they're still not allowed to be there."
There are 30 registered sex offenders living within a 3-mile radius of Conover, but Police Chief Steve Brewer said he doesn't know of any problems since he started as police chief.
"I can't even remember someone calling in and inquiring about sex offenders in the area," Brewer said. "I think it's because all the information (about the offenders) is online, and all people have to do is look it up."
Anyone can access information online at the North Carolina Department of Justice's website about sex offenders living in North Carolina's counties, towns or cities. Internet users can also sign up to receive email alerts when a sex offender moves into their area, or when a specific offender changes address.
Hickory has 42 sex offenders within a 3-mile radius; Claremont has 15; Catawba has 10; and Maiden has 18.
Notable sex offense, stalking cases in Catawba County
It has been one year since Maiden High School band director Christopher Caldwell was fired after allegations of sexual misconduct with a student.
The case remains open, and no court date is scheduled for Caldwell's next appearance, according to the North Carolina Court System's website.
Catawba County Schools Board of Education fired Caldwell in March 2010, when he was indicted for felony sex offense with a student and felony indecent liberties with a student.
Caldwell turned himself into authorities immediately after the indictment was issued March 26, 2010, and he was released from jail under a $9,500 secured bond. As part of his release conditions, he isn't allowed to have contact with anyone younger than 18, according to court documents.
Caldwell allegedly had sex with a Maiden High student on the school's campus on or about March 3, 2010.
Caldwell and his attorney, Jason White, have appeared in court several times, but according to court documents, the case hasn't been resolved.
Another notable case involving allegations of mistreatment of a minor student started in May 2009, when Fred T. Foard High School teacher John Donadio, 58, was charged with stalking a 17-year-old male student.
Donadio allegedly kept the student's picture, sent the student text messages and kept the child's nail clippings in his wallet.
Donadio was charged with stalking and lost his job at Fred T. Foard High in September 2009. Donadio's stalking indictment claims he, "knew or should have known that the harassment or the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury or continued harassment."
Donadio's case was brought to trial in July, but it was dismissed because of a procedural matter.
That doesn't mean the case is finished.
"The district attorney's office remains committed to the prosecution of this case and anticipates the matter will be returned to the grand jury and subsequently calendared for trial this fall," said the district attorney's office in a statement released in late July.
Donadio hasn't had a trial.
Court documents obtained by The O-N-E on Wednesday reveal about 10 people were subpoenaed by Donadio's defense to testify in the case.
They were scheduled to appear Feb. 28.
Sex offenders within a 3-mile radius
Note: some of the 3-mile areas overlap