Johnston man held in rape of girl

Prior arrests made in Wake, Chatham

Staff WriterJune 30, 2005 

A registered sex offender who underwent court-ordered therapy to curb his urges has been arrested and charged with raping a 12-year-old girl who visited his home in Johnston County.

The arrest is William David Caufman's third stemming from accusations that he sexually assaulted children. He previously was convicted of taking indecent liberties with children in Chatham and Wake counties and served 20 months in prison.

Caufman, 39, of 719 Matthews Road in northern Johnston County, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of the new charges, which include first-degree rape, three counts of first-degree sex offense and three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

"The rubber meets the road when he's convicted," said Johnston Sheriff Steve Bizzell.

This month, county deputies mapped the residences of registered sex offenders and began a door-to-door campaign to alert their neighbors.

"The judicial system has got to ask itself, 'How long are we willing to keep him away from children?' " Bizzell said.

The girl in the latest case lives in Wake County, Johnston Sheriff's Detective Chris Strickland said. She confided in a neighbor that she had been assaulted on four occasions while visiting Caufman's mobile home over the winter, he said.

Strickland said he did not know whether the child's mother, a friend of Caufman's, knew about his sex offense history, which dates back to his arrest in 1996 in Chatham County.

That's when Chatham deputies arrested Caufman after an 8-year-old girl complained at school that he had inappropriately touched her, said Lt. Doug Stuart. Caufman had been baby-sitting the girl for a friend, Stuart said. A judge put him on three years' probation for taking indecent liberties with a child.

Three years later, in 1999, shortly after his probation ended, Morrisville police picked up Caufman after he was accused of molesting another child there. Caufman pleaded guilty in 2000 to felonious restraint and indecent liberties with a child. Police records relating to that case were unavailable Wednesday.

A Wake County judge sentenced him to 20 to 24 months in prison, with credit for 230 days he had spent in jail awaiting trial. The judge urged Caufman to go through a prison treatment program for sex offenders. He also ordered a probation officer to watch Caufman for several years after his release and required Caufman to get counseling as a condition of probation.

While Caufman was on probation, the judge ordered, he must "not be alone with a child less than 18 years of age unless the parent or guardian has been informed of the defendant's conviction and probation."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Correction would not say whether Caufman participated in the prison program known as SOAR, for Sex Offender Accountability and Responsibility. The spokeswoman, Pamela Walker, said it was unlikely someone in prison for little more than a year would have had the chance to enroll.

The SOAR program is an intense, confrontational therapy-style treatment. Prisoners have to admit their sex crimes and be willing to enroll. The Correction Department offers slots to 56 prisoners a year during two sessions.

But Caufman did receive therapy after his release from prison in 2001, as the Wake judge had ordered, Walker said. She was unable to supply details but said a county mental health center probably provided the therapy.

Caufman was not under any probation supervision at the time of his arrest this week. In 2003, Johnston County Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins terminated his probation early because he had met all the conditions.

Jenkins said Wednesday that he could not recall the Caufman case, but as a rule, he said, he does not terminate probation without the approval of the probation officer and prosecutor.

Despite cases like Caufman's, the rate at which sex offenders repeat their crimes is actually lower than that of other types of criminals, said Susan Katzenelson, executive director of the N.C. Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission. Counseling and offender registry programs might explain the low rates of recidivism, she said.

But such programs aren't foolproof, and some offenders will slip through the cracks, Katzenelson said.

"Bottom line is, if we knew how to fix people, we'd get the Nobel Prize," she said. "We don't have a sure-fire way to prevent this."

(News researcher Becky Ogburn contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Mandy Locke can be reached at 829-8927 or mandy.locke@newsobserver.com.

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