Injunction suspends transfer of Jeffco sex offender to facility near elementary school

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Alabama (WBRC) – A Jefferson County criminal defendant is at the center of a legal issue spanning two counties.

Late Friday, Autauga County Circuit Judge Bill Lewis granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from transferring a convicted sex offender to a Prattville facility located 250 meters from an elementary school, the 90 meters from the city splash pad and other nurseries.

Tyrone Bennett, a convicted felon from Jefferson County, is currently receiving treatment at an Alabama Department of Mental Health certified facility. The agency filed a motion to move Bennett to a neighboring facility, Magnolia Wood, in downtown Prattville. Jefferson County Judge Kandice Pickett granted the motion, ordering Bennett’s relocation, noting that he was no longer a threat to himself or others, and listed several conditions he must follow, including no unsupervised contact with the public.

Court records also indicate concerns raised by Autauga County Police regarding Bennett’s transfer to Magnolia Wood, regarding its proximity to schools, businesses and a park frequented by children. They believe this is a direct violation of Alabama’s sex offender law, which prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 600 meters of schools, day care centers and churches.

Pickett filed a second order noting that sex offenders registered under mental health supervision at a state-authorized facility are exempt from residency requirements for sex offenders.

Autauga County District Attorney CJ Robinson filed an emergency motion on Friday, asking for a temporary restraining order to stop Bennett’s transfer until the judge can hear arguments on the matter on Tuesday.

“This is a target-rich environment for children and I will do everything in my power to protect them,” Robinson said.

A certificate filed by an attorney working for the Autauga County office indicated that a resident left the Prattville facility this week without supervision.

“Additionally, [there] there is no evidence of [Magnolia Wood] have any security, locked doors, or any other confinement available to be used to protect the premises and/or the defendant,” attorney Chip Cleveland stated in the filing. “Actually, on May 25, 2023, a resident with special needs [Magnolia Wood] voluntarily left the facility because there were no safeguards in place and ended up located in Montgomery County, Alabama.”

The WBRC also reached out to the Alabama Department of Mental Health for more information about this facility and the level of supervision Bennett would receive if transferred, so far we have not received a response.

This story will be updated as we learn new information.

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Injunction suspends transfer of Jeffco sex offender to facility near elementary school

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