Some parents became very suspicious when they noticed a strange man playing with kids at a pool.
Imagine their disgust when they learned that man is a registered sexual predator.
Last week, Myra Caldwell was with her daughter at the Ann Dever Regional Park swimming pool when she spotted 41-year-old Timothy Rice of North Port.
“I saw him with kids around him with a squirt gun, so I thought that they [were] friends,” recalled Caldwell.
Lifeguards and parents noticed he did this frequently over two weeks, and they were stunned to learn he touched young children inappropriately.
Then their worst nightmares were confirmed when they discovered he is a registered sexual predator.
“It was so scary because I have a 4-year-old daughter,” said Caldwell.
Charlotte County deputies say Rice was found guilty in 1998 of molesting multiple girls in Hillsborough County.
Since his crime was many years ago, under Florida law he was legally allowed to be at the pool.
“In this case there wasn’t anything necessarily that Mr. Rice was doing in violation of those restrictions until he started making contact with the children and doing things in a manner that the detective was able to establish, appeared to be grooming children for maybe a future sex offense,” said Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Katie Heck.
Deputies were concerned about his possible intentions.
“A lot of it was just at the time seemed innocent, which is quite often the case in these situations, these offenders will kind of groom the children, which is what our detective noted was going on in this case, which it appears friendly, they find common ground to talk to even the parents about, so they’re speaking to the parents and engaging them in conversation and it becomes a natural thing that at some point, they’re putting their hands on your child,” explained Heck.
Rice was charged with loitering or prowling by certain offenders in close proximity to children.
Many are angry.
“I don’t think he legally should be here. Anyone that has a record from before should not be a thousand feet from a child,” said visitor Annemarie Bush.
Detectives believe he may have done this activity at other pools or parks throughout the area. If you have any information, call the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.