Authorities are searching for a sexual predator accused of assaulting a young girl at a community pool in North Port. It comes less than a week after authorities arrested Rice for a similar crime at a Charlotte County public pool.
Since WINK News told you about Timothy Rice’s, 41, arrest at Ann and Chuck Dever Regional Park pool in Englewood Friday, we have received messages from several parents concerned about the lack of security there.
Now, some are taking matters into their own hands.
“I watched him try to even lure in my own son and I knew that and I knew that something wasn’t right there,” Vanessa Morris said.
A red flag went up in Morris’ head when Rice approached her 5-year-old son at the regional park pool last month. Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Deputies arrested Rice, a convicted sexual predator, charging him with loitering or prowling near children.
Now, Morris wants community leaders to increase protection in public areas.
“I want to see security in place; I want to see training offer to parents more so that they are aware of the issue,” Morris said. “And I want to see predators not be allowed near our children so that we can protect them.”
But, just a few feet away at the Ann Dever Park playground, Linda Smith told WINK News it is up to parents and grandparents to watch their children in public areas.
“We never just drop the kids off and have them play here,” Smith said. “We stay here. Watch with what’s going on.”
Morris would like to see identification screenings or more law enforcement patrols in the area. But until that happens, she said it is up to parents to follow their instinct.
“If something is striking up that feeling that it’s not right, you are probably correct in that,” Morris said.
Charlotte County said it does not screen visitors at the park for past infractions or legal status. But an employee would contact law enforcement if they learn someone is violating restrictions related to their criminal history.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said it does not have a Deputy exclusively patrolling Ann Dever Park. But it said they remain vigilant in the Englewood Area.
As for Rice, North Port Police are still searching for him in connection with a similar incident at a pool in 2018. The Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement confirms Rice had plans to travel to Texas before North Port issued that arrest warrant.