BEAUFORT — District Attorney Scott Thomas announced Thursday that Jerry Lee Faircloth, 52, of Newport, was convicted in Carteret County Superior Court this week following a jury trial of being a sex offender unlawfully on premises.
According to a release from Mr. Thomas’ office, resident Superior Court Judge Josh Willey presided over the trial term and Assistant District Attorney Irene Finney prosecuted the case.
Mr. Faircloth, who was previously convicted in 2008 of crime against nature and sexual battery, is a registered sex offender, subject to the residence, employment, travel and other restrictions on sex offenders under North Carolina law. One of those restrictions is that sex offenders are barred from being on premises of any place that is primarily for the use, care or supervision of minors, including schools, children’s museums, childcare centers, nurseries and playgrounds.
Immediately following Hurricane Florence in September 2018, Carteret County probation officers went through the county looking for any probationers who had been displaced by the storm. One of the places they went was Newport Middle School, which was designated as one of two storm shelters in the area.
An officer recognized Mr. Faircloth, as he had supervised him on probation previously, and believed he was a sex offender.
The officer in charge of the sex offender registry confirmed Mr. Faircloth was a sex offender, so officers returned with a Carteret County sheriff’s deputy and found Mr. Faircloth standing by the front entrance of the school. According to a release, they asked if he was staying at the shelter and he said he was not. They asked if he had sustained damage at his residence and he said he had not. They asked if he needed any shelter services, and he said he did not.
The officers told Mr. Faircloth to leave, as he was in violation of the sex offender laws by being on the premises of the school. Although the defendant claimed to have been visiting a family member who was in mental distress, the officers spoke with the family member, who showed no signs of distress in their presence. Carteret County Deputy Sheriff Harold Pendergrass obtained a warrant charging Mr. Faircloth with being a sex offender unlawfully on certain premises.
The jury found Mr. Faircloth guilty of the charge against him. He then pleaded guilty to the status of habitual felon, having at least three separate felony convictions on his record. Judge Willey then sentenced Mr. Faircloth to a prison term of 84 to 113 months in prison, a minimum seven years to more than nine years.
The prosecution was aided by an official from the Carteret County Department of Social Services, who explained in detail the records kept of people who stayed in the school, the absence of records allowing Mr. Faircloth on the premises and the rules of the shelter operation.