Elementary School Receives Unwanted Visitor

December 11, 2006--Posted at 6:25 p.m. CST

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO--Shortcut or sexual offense? Thursday at Caruthersville Elementary the playground allegedly received an unwanted visitor...a sexual offender.

"This person was seen on school property seemed to be somewhat suspicious person. Going across the playground, stopped smoked a cigarette and went on. He was later identified as someone with a prior sex offense," said Pemiscot County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Hazel.

44 year-old Charles Ray Cummings is charged with loitering within 500 feet of a school building. Allegedly he entered the playground area through an open gate around 3 p.m. He was previously convicted in 1983 with the attempted rape of a 5 year-old in Pemiscot County. While it isn't believed Cummings made any contact with the elementary students it is still a scary situation.

"The parents entrust us with their children and it's our job to keep them safe. I am very concerned about that," said Caruthersville Superintendent Nicholas Thiele.

According to Missouri law a sexual offender cannot be inside a school building or within 500 feet of a school building. With the number of updated sexual predator laws the prosecuting attorney believes you will begin to see more cases like this one in the future.

"There's a lot of stuff on television about this, which is good, the public needs to know about all this sort of thing. I think sex offenders are under stricter scrutiny these days," said Hazel.

Since Thursday, Caruthersville Elementary has already taken steps it hopes will make the campus even more secure.

"Strategically positioning staff members, we have been adding cameras on campus and now we know of places we need to add some more," said Thiele.

Most importantly the superintendent feels it is important for parents and teachers to report any strange behavior to local police.

Cummings' charge of loitering within 500 feet of a school building is a "class A misdemeanor" and holds a penalty of up to a year in county jail and up to a $1000 fine.