Small team of WyCo deputies tracks over 1,300 offenders

Posted at 9:58 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-05 22:58:34-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A small team of Wyandotte County Sheriff's deputies is responsible for keeping track of more than 1,300 violent, sex, and drug offenders. 

The Offender Registration Unit makes sure the offenders register, and continue to register, or they track them down. 

It's a big task for just three people, and they'd like to add more deputies to their team.

"The January 2010 total number of offenders was 706 people. Go eight years later to December 31, 2017, that number has grown to 1,365," Colonel Bob Gunja told 41 Action News. 

Their numbers show a 48 percent increase in crime. 

The ORU used to have just one deputy to keep track of the county's registered offenders until they got a grant in 2013 that allowed them to add a few more. 

Each day they'll get around 20 people coming in to register for the first time or re-register. 

If the agency had more money to add more deputies to the team, Gunja said they'd definitely be busy, but it's hard because the jail needs more employees too. 

The Sheriff's Office will lose staff to the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department because sometimes working the jail and the courts gets to be too much. 

Sometimes their ORU deputies are overwhelmed. 

"More people getting convicted, more crimes being committed," Gunja explained. "Our deputies are never lacking work. They're busy all the time." 

The deputies have to find more than 100 non-compliant offenders each month. Sometimes those offenders are still in Wyandotte County, and sometimes they're not. 

Johnny Hogue, a sex offender who had been non-compliant since April 2017, was one of those people. He was also on the KBI's top ten list of non-compliant offenders until the ORU tracked him down at a house in KCK late January. 

The story makes the deputies grin. 

Hogue's brother told the deputy what kind of truck Hogue drove.  The deputy happened to see one similar parked in a driveway of a home off 77th Street, and the license plate came back to Hogue. 

Hogue's girlfriend was asleep in the truck and told the deputy he was inside the house.  The people who came to the door lied, insisting Hogue wasn't there, but the deputy was able to go inside and found Hogue hiding amongst piles of trash in the basement. 

The ORU team also nabbed another of KBI's top 10, Todd Moulin Sr., who had been non-compliant since April 2015. 

"There's times we need to let the community know we're out there actively pursuing these people, out there enforcing the statutes of Kansas," Gunja said. 

One family in KCK knows the heartbreak that comes with being a victim of a violent offender. 

"I just wish we could get more law enforcement people to get these offenders and these killers off the street so families can be at peace," Carrolyn Ruiz said. 

Ruiz's daughter, Vicky Ernst, was brutally murdered in 1997, but her killers weren't brought to justice until 2015. 

Jason Rucker and Torry Johnson were teenagers when they beat and stabbed Ernst to death in her home.

Ruiz says they were told it was over a television. 

Both were sentenced to life in prison. 

Rucker is eligible for parole in 12 years, and if he did get out, he would have to register as a violent offender. 

Johnson was already serving life in prison for killing a man in 2005, but he would also be eligible for parole in the Ernst murder in 12 years. 

"These are people who are convicted in these types of crimes that leads to other crimes, potentially. So we really need to know," Gunja said. 

Ruiz remembers how agonizing it was to wait 17 years for her only daughter's justice, and doesn't want to see her killers fly under the radar again. 

"You don't ever get over something like this," Ruiz cried.