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Family Harassed After Mistake On Sex Offender Registry

11-4-2005 Indiana:

(LOUISVILLE) -- A mistake on the Indiana Sex Offenders Registry caused problems for a New Albany family, including harassing phone calls at home and their kids being shunned at school. All for something they didn't do. WAVE 3's Jeff Tang investigates and gets results. Richard Cornell loves his neighborhood, the folks next door, and his home. "I've lived her for a little over five years," he said. But right now, he absolutely hates his address. "It's coming to the point where I'm about to blow," Cornell said.

The problems started not long after Cornell checked Indiana's Sex Offender Registry website a few months ago and found his address listed as the residence of a convicted sex offender. Anyone checking the online registry would be led to believe a convicted felon named Joseph Epperson lives at Richard's home. Cornell wasn't the only person who spotted Epperson's name linked to his address. "We're getting harassing phone calls," he said. "Our children are getting upset, and asking 'what's a sex offender? Why can't so and so come over and play," Cornell said.

A photo of Epperson doesn't appear on the website, so Cornell has found himself needing to clear a few things up with suspicious neighbors. The main point he needs to convey: "I am not Joseph Epperson and I am not a sex offender, thank you." The Cornells bought the home from Epperson's ex-wife years ago. The state's website shows Epperson hasn't registered since 1996. "They don't know where he is," Cornell says of Epperson. "He could be off doing God knows what." Meanwhile, the family has continued trying to straighten out the mess.

"We made numerous calls to the Sheriff's Department. No one seems to want to do anything about it," Cornell said. WAVE 3 put the family in touch with Mike Eslinger, the executive director of the Indiana Sheriff's Association, the organization that posted the website. He promised to take care of the mistake by removing Cornell's address from the registry until the Floyd County Sheriff's department can locate Epperson. By next week, the Cornells won't have a problem telling people where they live. "Unless someone pressed them to do it, I don't think it would have gotten done if you hadn't of stepped in it wouldn't have gotten this far," Cheryl Cornell said.

The Sheriff's Association says it's in the process of updating the registry to help minimize mistakes like this one. A revamped, updated site was planned to be up and running by January 2006. ..more.. : by Jeff Tang

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