HOUSTON, Mo. - A loophole in the sex offender laws allows certain offenders to come in contact with children. One grandmother is making it her mission to close that gap.
"My 12-year-old granddaughter and my 8-year-old grandson are being deliberately exposed to a registered sex offender," said Lynn Lewis.
The sex offender is the boyfriend of the children's mother. According to Lewis, her grandchildren told her they spend time with the offender often.
The man has to register in the state of Missouri for a 1998 rape conviction. At the time, he was 29 years old and his victim was a 15-year-old girl. That is three years older than Lewis' granddaughter.
"I fear that he is going to hurt my granddaughter," Lewis said solemnly.
Letters and handwritten notes document the countless conversations Lewis had with police, prosecutors, child services, and elected officials about the situation. They told her nothing could be done.
"Child services said it straight to me. They said 'well until your granddaughter is raped and or murdered by this registered sex offender. There is nothing we can do,'' detailed Lewis. "I was furious. I was livid. I could not believe it."
Laws restricting sex offenders can be complicated. The type of crime and criminal record factors into punishment. For many sex crimes, offenders have a probationary period, where they are more restrictions on where they can go and whom they can meet.
"Once you are off probation, there are no laws - criminal laws that I am aware of - that prevent you from being around children under the age of 17," explained Stephanie Wan, first assistant prosecuting attorney for the person's unit at the Greene County prosecutor's office.
The time that the offender committed the crime also plays a big part in what offenders can and cannot do.
"Right now as the law currently stands, there are, in addition to the registration requirements, there are also requirements in regards to their ability to be around parks, pools, playgrounds, daycare facilities, schools, that kinds of thing," said Wan. "The sex offender registration laws apply if you were convicted after they were enacted. So it would not apply retroactively to you."
That may change this fall. The state Supreme County will hear a case to see if sex offense laws can be amended to include all offenders.
In Lewis' case, the offender is off probation and is only required to register with the state offender list. Since his rape conviction, the mother's boyfriend hasn't been charged with anything new. The grandchildren said he hasn't harmed them in anyway.
"Missouri is a great place, but not for children. It's a wonderful place for sex offenders," Lewis said emphatically. "I think we should take ads out in the papers nationally and say 'sex offenders, welcome to Missouri. Our laws will protect you. Don't bring your children here people because they are not protected by our laws until they are hurt.'"
This week, the father of the kids filed an emergency protection order against their mother. Lewis said that way; the children have no contact with their mom or her boyfriend. The protection order is not permanent and the parents are scheduled to be in court about the matter in August.
While Lewis awaits the final judgment, the grandmother said her focus is to change the law to protect children and hope no one gets hurt.
"I will send a letter out to my list of people every 5-6 weeks. It will be a new letter. Some I hand deliver and those out of town I mail and I will do it until I draw my last breath," said Lewis. "I have no doubt what so ever that my granddaughter will be hurt. And I can't stop it. But this mad granny will fight."