WRAL Investigates

Durham students wait for bus near home shared by 11 sex offenders

Posted April 30, 2012
Updated May 1, 2012

— North Carolina law says registered sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or child care center, but the law does not address school bus stops. The WRAL Investigates team found 11 sex offenders and other convicts living together in a house next to several school bus stops in Durham.

At least 12 children from five different schools are picked up at bus stops near the intersection of Carter and Rowena avenues between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. each week day. On the day the WRAL Investigates team visited, some children waited with their parents, but others were alone.

Jeremy Alston Mugshots: 11 sex offenders living near neighborhood bus stop

The parents, many of whom don’t speak much English, said they didn’t know who was living at the house at 903 Carter Ave., and neither did most of the neighbors.

“Holy mackerel!” said neighbor Lucy Raymond, who immediately started spreading the word to parents. “We need to know. This is something we should’ve known before this happened.”

Of the 11 sex offenders living in the house, eight have records for crimes against children, according to the state sex offender registry:

WRAL News began investigating after a neighbor emailed a tip that a large number of sex offenders were living at the house. Records showed 10 registered sex offenders lived there. But, as of April 26, an 11th sex offender registered 903 Carter Ave. as his address.

Keith Byrd, who is not a sex offender, is the house manager. He said the group is living together as part of a non-profit Christian work program called God’s Property.

“We go out and do work around folks’ houses, mobile detail cars, stuff like that,” Byrd said. “We have a lot of guys who come and go because they can’t take it. Some guys make it, some don’t … If you’ve never been where these guys have been, you’re never going to understand.”

Durham Carter St. bus stop Durham students wait for bus near home shared by 11 sex offenders

Chris Barnett runs the program, which is based out of his thrift shop in Durham.

“I help all people, lost and hurting people,” said Barnett, who is known as Pastor Chris. He has served time in jail as well for theft crimes years ago. “Our program is designed for six months to a year, you know, to try to help people get on their feet.”

Barnett says he moved the group to Carter Avenue four months ago after the lease on another home ran out. When asked if he thought it was wise for a ministry to put registered sex offenders so close to children, Barnett said, “No, no I don’t.”

“I was not aware of the children catching the bus there. I was just not aware,” he said.

Harold Wills, the owner of the house, said Barnett "was told the bus stop was here." Wills knew ex-convicts were living in the house, he said, but he didn’t know some of them were sex offenders.

“Being they were convicts, I figured I’d been there. I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom,” Wills said.

On Monday, City of Durham officials said Wills was in the process of evicting the men from the house. Barnett was looking for another place for the group to stay.

While there is nothing illegal about 11 registered sex offenders living together, Durham officials said they were investigating whether there was a housing code violation for too many unrelated people living at the house.

When the WRAL Investigates team told Durham Public Schools about the house on Carter Avenue, the school system began looking at alternative bus stops for the children. On Monday, spokesman Jeff Nash said they decided not to change the bus stop.

"We have had no parent complaints or requests to move it," Nash wrote in an email. "Of course, we may get a request tomorrow, and our Transportation team is very flexible and willing to consider a change as long as it doesn’t create a more dangerous situation (considering traffic patterns, speed limits, lighting, hills, curves, etc.)."

Robin McCoy, Durham schools’ chief communications officer, says finding bus stops is challenging, because children need to catch a bus close to their homes. The school system asks that parents always accompany their kids at a bus stop.

School systems across the state have differing policies on bus stops and whether they check to see if sex offenders are living nearby. Find out your school system's policy.

Read more WRAL Investigates stories or contact the WRAL Investigates team.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Spartan 136 May 9, 2012

    "If you’ve never been where these guys have been, you’re never going to understand.”

    Looking for sympathy? Please...these people should not be among us..

  • seanlondajackson May 8, 2012

    I think that this is an bad situation all the way around. We want to keep the children safe, but then the question arises as to where are the people who are in this kind of situation supposed to reside? And this once again boils down to the shelters. In Raleigh (not too sure of other places) the South Wilmington Street center has a lottery system, where the men may not have an adequate place to live, and so the ones who are trying to rehabilitate themselves and such have to turn to the community, which in turn, tries to find housing for these gentlemen, but then we end up with a situation like this.

  • RaleighHunts May 3, 2012

    "100% agree on that. I stayed on the bus stope with oldest daughter until she graduated from High school (still one year with my youngest)"

    OK, I think that is a bit of overkill... I simply don not believe you are doing your children a service if you believe you must accompany an 18 year old to the bus stop every morning. How are they ever going to learn any self reliance or independence (extremely important traits) if you never even give them an opportunity.

    Sending a teenager to a 3rd world country unsupervised... maybe not, but sending them unsupervised to the bus stop on the corner... yes.

  • dev8me May 2, 2012

    >>It shouldnt make any difference in who is living in what house!
    >>Parents need to be at the bus stop with their children even if the bus stop is in front of a church or public library.

    100% agree on that. I stayed on the bus stope with oldest daughter until she graduated from High school (still one year with my youngest)

    Sadly that's not what I see on my everyday comutte... there are really young kids left alone.
    Parents, step up to your role - (meeh.. those that don't, they don't bother to read this either)

    and finally... being in the "sex offenders" doesn't mean one is a child molester - there are many other ways to get into that list (wink,wink)

  • superman May 2, 2012

    It shouldnt make any difference in who is living in what house! Parents need to be at the bus stop with their children even if the bus stop is in front of a church or public library. When you stop thinking about your personal safety-- you are going to get into trouble. You are not safe anywhere and that includes being in jail or prison. Please dont blame others when you are lax and irresponsible yourself.

  • barbstillkickin May 2, 2012

    Why would any parent want to let their child stand outside in front of a sex offenders home so they can watch them from inside the home. I find this to be a terrible thing and the city of Durham should put a stop to it if the parents can not speak enough English to even understand what is going on unless insist is something they are used to.

  • shelllauren May 2, 2012

    Right on CraftyMo! I am especially disturbed by the Durham Public Schools apparent apathy "We have had no parent complaints or requests to move it," That implies that until someone complains, they don't really care...

  • CraftyMo May 1, 2012

    There are quite a few comments worrying about the seek offenders and their rights. If they did "serve their time" then why are they required to be listed in the sex offender registry and why is it such a problem to get them to do just that? Our laws are too lenient for these offenders. If they were not potentially a problem there would be no sex offenders list. Statistics show these offenders do committ more than one act of sexual abuse, kidnapping and/or indecent liberties with a minor. To protect our children there should be tougher laws for those who think nothing of ruining and taking a child's innocence. It would be nice to see more comments about protecting our children then caring one bit about the "rights" of sex offenders. Being a victim of sexual abuse myself, I do know that they hunt and watch children to find an opportunity to get the child alone. I felt ashamed and thought I did something wrong for this to happen to me. Advocate for the victims please!

  • GravyPig May 1, 2012

    I guess all I am saying is that to come into a discussion about criminals, which we all know are criminals and start making an issue of the language used is kind of silly. As I said, if the "criminal" element of the subject was unknown, then "I made a mistake" would be a lie by omission. In the context it was used, we all knew that we were discussing criminals and there was no minimization of the charges, or an admission of guilt, or any an apology to be given.

    I would agree wholly with your initial statement if it were the criminals making reference to their own crimes. In that connotation I agree that your original statement is spot on.

    I certainly see what you were saying.

  • storchheim May 1, 2012

    GravyPig, I'm more passionate about the language and the way it's used to say or not say something than I am about the men at the halfway house. It just happened to be on this story. I wanted to illustrate my objection to the phrase by giving an example. You then gave a good example of a lie by omission. Surely to say that criminals of any stripe "made mistakes" as a euphemistic way of referring to their crimes - or better still, when those convicted later say "I made a mistake" euphemistically with no further clarification is a lie of omission as well. It sounds as if they're minimizing the crime. In some cases it's supposed to be a noble admission of guilt and an apology rolled into one!

    Words have different connotations, that's all, and I can tell you know that by your writing style (good). You're right, the acts ARE mistakes, but that's not giving the big picture, IMO.