The ABC15 Investigators have discovered the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office twice failed to notify a small East Valley community about a pair of high-risk sex offenders living in the neighborhood in the past three years.
Sex offenders, Christopher Ean Johnson and Jeffrey Van Wagoner, both lived in a county island subdivision named Sienna Estates, located near Broadway and Ellsworth roads.
In both cases, MCSO officials admitted they made a mistake.
“The whole thing is really frustrating,” said Bren Schultz, a mother of three who’s lived in the neighborhood for several years. “I can’t even believe this happened a second time.”
Jeffrey Van Wagoner spent 13 years in prison for child molestation. But for years, Sienna Estates residents didn’t know anything about his past.
That changed in January 2011.
Police had just arrested Jeffrey Van Wagoner for kidnapping a 9-year-old. He lured the girl into his car by saying he had a puppy, court records show.
“There were (news crews) in our neighborhood,” Schultz said. “We were like ‘What’s going on?’”
ABC15 covered the story. At the time, the sheriff’s office told us that it was “their responsibility” and that it was “an error on their part.”
Once neighbors discovered there was another sex offender living nearby, they contacted the ABC15 Investigators to get to the bottom of it.
“To hear it again, it’s negligence,” said Robert Eshbaugh, the former community watch leader. “There’s no accountability. There’s no reliability.”
The Second Time
ABC15 learned that a man named Christopher Ean Johnson had been living at a house in the center of the subdivision for more than a year.
He was convicted and sent to prison for having sex with a 14-year-old girl in 1994.
“I found out from my kids’ friends,” Schultz said. “We were outside their house and they were like, ‘We aren’t allowed passed a certain point.’ And I didn’t understand that because I’m with them. They were like, ‘There’s a sex offender that lives there, we can’t go. And I was like what are you talking about?”
State law requires local law enforcement agencies to notify the nearby area, schools and other places like daycares and community centers when a sex offender moves.
In the most recent case, MCSO sent ABC15 a written statement:
Understandably the affected neighborhood is concerned. Fortunately the situation has been corrected to ensure the public safety and no incidents involving this offender were reported. The Sheriff’s Office maintained contact with Johnson, a level two sex offender, through the Sheriff’s Sex Offender Posse and Sex Offender Notification Unit during the year he was at his Mesa address which is in the Sheriff’s jurisdiction. He has since relocated to a Tempe, AZ address. In response to a Channel 15 inquiry, we verified that in February 2013, a Sheriff’s detective requested a notification flyer be mailed and placed Johnson on the Sheriff’s sex offender portion of our website. Shortly thereafter, the detective noticed an error in the postal notification and requested a cancelation but failed to document it. The detective was moved to a different assignment and the file was reassigned with the understanding that the notification had gone out. The situation has been corrected and we remind the public that sex offenders in the county are listed on our website and that those within our jurisdiction will continue to be monitored to ensure the public safety.
Has the same thing happened in your neighborhood? Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at firstname.lastname@example.org.