Friday, May 21, 2010
A Northern California sex offender with a history of parole violations cut off his ankle monitor and went on a two-day crime spree in which he tried to rob or kidnap several women and teenage girls at knifepoint in the San Diego area, authorities said.
Leonard Scroggins, 32, was arrested at a park in National City on Wednesday after police spotted a minivan with a license plate number matching that provided by a purse-snatching victim.
He remained jailed without bail on Friday after being booked for robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, evading a peace officer and attempted kidnapping. The district attorney's office said it expected to charge him Monday.
Scroggins, who was released from state prison in March, removed a GPS bracelet strapped to his ankle and left Napa County on Monday, parole officials said.
The tampering automatically and immediately alerted parole officials and a warrant for his arrest was issued, along with a notice that was sent to a database used by law enforcement officials nationwide, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Friday.
Any police officer who stopped Scroggins would have been able to arrest him immediately for parole violation, she said.
The department's fugitive apprehension team also was notified, and on Tuesday a parole board suspended Scroggins' parole, Thornton said.
Still, critics of California's penal system told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the case shows that sex offenders should never be freed because they continue to pose a danger.
"These people cannot be cured," said Harriet Salarno of Crime Victims United, which is suing the state over a plan to grant early release to thousands of inmates as a cost-saving move. "So why are we letting them out? You can control a GPS monitor just so much."
"These are sick, demented, perverted individuals," said Todd Spitzer, an Orange County prosecutor and former state Assemblyman. "The only solution is to lock them up and throw away the key."
Thornton said the Department of Corrections took all measures permitted by the law. She did not immediately know how many sex offenders had been able to remove their monitors but "it's not frequent and there are these safeguards," she said.
The case drives home the difficulties of stopping sex offenders unless they are put away for life, said Charles Fennessey, a consultant to California Sen. George Runner. The Lancaster Republican has proposed a law that would require registered sex offenders in the state to disclose their e-mail addresses, websites and instant messaging user names to police.
"The technologies are changing rather rapidly in terms of GPS. There are passive and active monitoring devices or programs," Fennessey told The Associated Press. "But basically putting a monitor on someone is not the same as locking them in a cell."
Scroggins is believed to have demanded money from a 17-year-old girl in Chula Vista at about 9 p.m. Tuesday but she ran off, said Chula Vista police Capt. Gary Wedge.
Scroggins also is suspected of trying to pull a woman into a car less than an hour later, Wedge said. The woman struggled and was stabbed in the arm before she broke free and ran, he said. She was treated at a hospital.
Scroggins also is suspected of stealing a purse in National City Wednesday afternoon and later putting a knife to the throat of a 13-year-old girl and trying to drag her into his car.
"He kept repeating in a low voice, 'Get in the car or I will cut you,"' said Guadalupe Perez, an eighth-grader at National City Middle School.
The girl said she screamed and reached for the knife, cutting her finger, then elbowed the man and ran.
"If I didn't do that, I wouldn't be here today," she said.
"I didn't want to be one of those cases where you find my remains three years from now."
State Corrections records show that Scroggins, who has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager, has a history of parole violations.
He was paroled in 1999 after serving time for violating a state law prohibiting aiding or abetting rape or penetration with a foreign object but went back to prison that same year, and again in 2001 and 2002 for parole violations.
In 2004 he was imprisoned for making a terrorist threat. He was released in January but was back in custody the next month for parole violations, before finally being released on March 6.
After his release, Scroggins had registered as a transient sex offender, said Napa County sheriff's Capt. Tracey Stuart.
On Monday, authorities received an allegation that Scroggins had fondled a 14-year-old relative during a family gathering on May 13, and investigating deputies then determined that his location monitor was no longer working, Stuart said.
"We tried his cell phone and left messages with his mother trying to locate him," Stuart said.
Thornton did not immediately know how many sex offenders had managed to remove their monitors but said it appeared to be infrequent.
The Department of Corrections followed proper procedures after Scroggins removed his device, she said.
But officials simply cannot prevent all parolees from committing new crimes, Thornton added.
"People on parole live in the community. They're not in custody," she said. "Is there somebody watching parolees 24 hours a day? No. They've gone back home.
"How do you keep people from doing what's wrong? They don't even obey the laws when they're in prison."