Sex Offenders May Be Next To Loved Ones In Nursing Homes

Most nursing homes and retirement communities are peaceful places where the elderly can live with dignity. They're also inviting to families who frequently visit their loved ones. But who else is living there?

A KLTV 7 News investigation found more than a half-dozen registered sex offenders living in East Texas nursing homes -- some of them with convictions just a few years old. The convictions are for horrible crimes against children.

"I think it is terrible for him to be here in a facility with sick patients," says an outraged Cassandra Howard.

Her mother is just one of thousands of Texas nursing home residents living next to convicted sex offenders.

"That's awful for me to bring my kids up here and somebody's like that in this building. That's terrible," she says.

Her mother just moved in to Azalea Place in Tyler. That's also where Autrey Parker McVicker lives. He was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2002 for indecency/sexual contact with a nine-year-old girl. The 85 year old McVicker is out on probation.

Cassandra responds: "And they accepted him in here?"

She says she and her mother were not told about McVicker's criminal history.

At Azalea Place, administrator Ken Richardson said he had only been on the job for several days. He added he did not know Mr. McVicker, and said it would be a violation of his privacy regulations to give out information about him. But as administrator, he would not comment on whether other residents at Azalea Place are told a sex offender is living among them.

KLTV reached McVicker by phone after our crew was asked to leave Azalea Place. McVicker claims management has informed the other residents of Azalea Place, and that "everybody knows" about his conviction. That can't be confirmed.

The Texas Department of Human Services says nursing homes do not have to inform their residents of an offender. However, the DPS says no privacy law can prevent the distribution of the kind of information freely available on their web site.

That's where we found 88-year-old Elbert James Patten who lives at Birmingham Health Care Center in Rusk. He was sentenced to two years in 2001 for indecency and sexual contact of an eight-year-old girl. He has been discharged from the justice system. Birmingham Health didn't return a phone call Tuesday.

John Edmon Jones is 77 and lives at Briarcliff Health Center in Tyler. He was given a ten year sentence in January 1999 for sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl. Jones is out on probation. The administrator in charge of Briarcliff Health was not available for comment Tuesday. We found four other offenders in Tyler, Longview, Jefferson, and Jasper. Their convictions are more than seven years old.

Cassandra is shocked at what she learned, but she says knowledge is power, especially as the mother of a seven-year-old daughter.

Reporter: "I guess you'll watch her a lot better?"

Cassandra: "I will. And, I'm going to get my mom removed from here."

Reported by Morgan Palmer.