Chandler police ID wrong house as sex offender’s - East Valley Tribune: News

Chandler police ID wrong house as sex offender’s

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Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 5:32 pm | Updated: 8:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Chad Tow avoided neighbors for a few weeks earlier this year, and to this day he's still a bit embarrassed. Children no longer visit his south Chandler home to see which of his toys - golf carts, go-carts, street cars - he's tinkering with in his driveway.

Search for sex offenders by ZIP code

Gone are some of the friendly waves he was used to from neighbors he knew by sight, but not by name.

This perceived shunning, he says, stems from a lying sex offender who registered under Tow's address and the sloppy work of the Chandler police.

Tow is now threatening a defamation suit against Chandler and accusing police of dragging their feet in correcting a flier notifying neighbors that a sex offender lived at his house and partially blaming him for the error.

Tow, a 35-year-old machinist, filed paperwork May 29 demanding $200,000 to settle out of court.

"This could have happened to anybody," Tow said Monday.

Tow also questions Chandler's procedure for verifying the residences of sex offenders, which he calls lax.

A neighbor informed him about the flier in January.

Convicted sex offenders are required to register their home addresses with police, who must then notify neighbors. The state is required to post the information online for the community to see where these offenders live.

Thirty-two registered sex offenders live in Chandler's five ZIP codes, according the state Department of Public Safety.

The flier, which went to 60 homes, pictured Kurtis Hamady, 34, who was convicted in 1993 in Michigan of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree for having sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was 19.

He was also convicted of failing to register as a sex offender in Arizona and was released in March 2007 after serving an 18-month prison term.

Tow's and Hamady's appearances are similar, which could cause alarm in a neighborhood where people know each other more by sight than name.

"I'm sitting there thinking, what are my neighbors thinking?" Tow said. "If you're 50 feet away it would be hard to tell the difference between him and me, and I'm thinking how many neighbors know my name is Chad rather than Kurt."

Tow has known Hamady since high school through Hamady's brother, and while they were friends, Tow kept him at arm's length, especially after Tow got married.

Tow said that Hamady, who couldn't be reached for comment, asked Tow if he could stay with him when he got out of prison, but Tow refused and then paid for Hamady to stay a few nights in a hotel.

Nine months later, in December, Tow found in his door a Chandler police detective's business card with a note for Hamady to call.

"It didn't say Chad, it didn't say homeowner, it said Kurt," Tow said. "I think nothing of it."

The detective left a message a few weeks later on Tow's phone for Hamady to call.

Tow said he didn't know how to reach Hamady to let him know Chandler police wanted to speak with him.

Hamady finally called him in early January, the first time they had spoken in months, but Hamady didn't mention anything about using his address.

That's when Tow let him know the detective was looking for him.

Hamady told Tow that police just wanted him to check in.

Then his neighbor came over with the news of the flier notifying neighbors that a sex offender lived at his house.

When Tow learned about the problem, he immediately went to Chandler police.

The initial reaction by the detective was surprise and shock that Hamady lied to him, Tow said.

"What was he put away for 2 1/2 years ago, not registering as a sex offender, how could this come as a surprise," Tow said.

Tow said he initially got promises that the problem would be corrected immediately and he would receive a letter of apology.

The detective even went to his neighborhood and started speaking with neighbors.

As Tow moved his complaint up the chain of command, a lieutenant told him there would be no letter of apology because he was partially at fault for not calling the detective when he left his business card and message for Hamady, Tow said.

Lyle Riggs, Tow's attorney, said Tow had no obligation to respond to messages left for Hamady, and police were obligated to verify Hamady's address. [CORRECTION: This story originally mistakenly listed Lyle Riggs as Kurtis Hamady's attorney.]

Sgt. Rick Griner, Chandler police spokesman, declined to comment because the first steps toward litigation have been taken.

According to Chandler police policy, the department's Sex Offender Registration and Tracking coordinator has the option of verifying a sex offender's address within 45 days of notifying the community.

The coordinator is required to check the residence once a year for low- and medium-risk offenders and every six months for high-risk offenders.

The department checks on high-risk offenders in person and the low- and medium-risk offenders by sending them a certified letter with a questionnaire that must be returned within two weeks.

Hamady is considered a medium risk, according to the state registry.

Police did send out a second notification correcting the first one, but Tow said it took 17 days for that to happen.

"Had my neighbor not told me about it, Kurt Hamady would still be using my address," Tow said.

Chandler police arrested Hamady on Jan. 29 in west Phoenix, and he admitted that he never lived at Tow's house, according to court documents.

He's been indicted on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender.

However, on that same document, which police fill out, Tow's address is listed as Hamady's. Court paperwork filed as recently as May 29 still lists Tow's address for Hamady.

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