Update: Sex Offender Camping in Walmart Lot was Legal
Editor’s Note: On Monday WCYB-TV, Bristol, Va., found convicted sex offender Doug Young living in his RV in a Walmart parking lot. As the story unfolded, it turns out Virginia State Police and state statutes have no problem with that; police say Young has done nothing wrong. Here is the station’s updated story.
Doug Young was not happy to see us when we showed up at his RV parked at the Walmart on Lee Highway. We had received a tip from a concerned viewer who said a sex offender was living there.
We went to check and found the RV. He was convicted in 1985 of child sex abuse. He told us he served his time, but denied the crimes.
A Walmart manager told us he had no idea Young was living there. He wondered how a registered sex offender could end up living in such a public place with so many people around.
While it may be surprising to you, it is perfectly legal. We spoke to Public Relations Manager Corinne Geller of the Virginia State Police, and she explained nothing was wrong. “It does happen from time to time. We have a sex offender living under an overpass in the city of Richmond so we have the nearest physical address listed on the website,” she said. “We also have one offender who has taken up residency in the national forest and as long as we have the address, he can do that.”
Geller says the state did know where he was living and a trooper had been checking on him twice a year. Young was located just where he listed on the state registry — at the address on Lee Highway. It doesn’t matter that it is a parking lot.
“The Virginia Sex Offender Registry is regulated by the legislature,” Geller explained. “The legislators are the ones who dictate what is on there for the registrants and for state police to maintain the registry.”
Virginia law, and a similar one in Tennessee, says sex offenders can live where they want with restrictions on places where children gather like schools, parks and churches.
We spoke with Commonwealth’s Attorney Jerry Wolfe about the matter. “As long as that person reports a valid address, that is all that is required by the statute,” he said. “It is my understanding from your report that it had been done in this case. It just happened that the individual gave and address that is a business. The business did not know he was there, but the state knew. That’s exactly where you found him.”
Now Young has another address, as he’s moved to a campground. We’re told he was quick to notify authorities of his address change.
Perhaps there, he’ll get what he told us he wants — just to be left alone.
Here’s another fact we found out from the state police: troopers don’t have any responsibility to inform a business if a sex offender is living in their parking lot.