BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) – A sex offender has been convicted in a Carteret County trial of being at a school serving as a shelter in the days after Hurricane Florence.
District Attorney Scott Thomas announced 52-year-old Jerry Lee Faircloth of Newport was convicted following a jury trial of being a sex offender unlawfully on-premises.
Faircloth was convicted in 2008 of crime against nature and sexual battery stemming from an October 2006 offense.
North Carolina law states sex offenders are barred from being on premises of any place that is primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors, including schools, children’s museums, child care centers, nurseries, and playgrounds.
Immediately following Hurricane Florence, Carteret County Probation Officers went through the county, looking for any probationers who had been displaced by the storm.
One of the places they went to was the Newport Middle School, which was designated as one of two storm shelters in the area.
An officer recognized Faircloth, as he had supervised him on probation previously, and believed he was a sex offender.
The officer in charge of the sex offender registry confirmed that Faircloth was a sex offender, so the officers returned, with a Carteret County Sheriff’s Office deputy, and found Faircloth standing by the front entrance of the school.
The officers told him to leave, as he was in violation of the sex offender laws by being on the premises of the school.
Although the defendant claimed to have been visiting a family member who was in mental distress, the officers spoke with the family member, who showed no signs of distress in their presence.
Carteret County Deputy Sheriff Harold Pendergrass obtained a warrant charging Faircloth with Being a Sex Offender Unlawfully on Certain Premises.
The jury found Faircloth to be guilty of the charge against him.
Faircloth then pleaded guilty to the status of a habitual felon, having at least three separate felony convictions on his record.
Resident Superior Court Judge Josh Willey then sentenced Faircloth to a prison term of 84 to 113 months in prison.
The prosecution was aided greatly by an official from the Carteret County Department of Social Services, who explained in detail the records kept of people who stayed in the school, the absence of records allowing Faircloth on the premises, and the rules of the shelter operation.
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