Wanted sex offender located by law enforcement at mother's house

Wanted sex offender located by law enforcement at mother's house

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Chatham County Sheriff's Office Investigator Frank Rollins was just one of many detectives who has been on a three-year manhunt for Joel Bunton.

He's been on the run from the sex offender registry since 2013 when he was released from prison after serving four years for raping a 15-year-old girl.

Police have been looking for him ever since but that search finally came to an end Tuesday, at his mother's house on Wilmington Island.

"When we went out to the residence, we surrounded the house. Mom would not come to the door. We stated multiple times, we have a search warrant for the residence. You need to open the door, let us in. She would not cooperate with us. At that time, we entered the residence and when we did she picked up a board and tried to hit one of the task force members," said Rollins.

Police then arrested Myrtice Bunton and began searching the rest of the house for her son.

"We did find Joel Bunton upstairs in a secret compartment, trap door in the residence," said Rollins. "This is pretty much like a spot underneath the sink in the hallway, it's about three by three."

Over the last three years, investigators believe this is where Bunton would hide every time they came looking for him. Bunton's relatives that live next door wouldn't go on camera but claim to have no idea what was going on.

But the news certainly rattled this family friendly community.

"It's a terrible feeling to think, you've got small kids in the neighborhood and you can't trust them to go anywhere from your sight," said Marmolejo.

While it's a disturbing reality for some, knowing a sex offender has been hiding nearby for three years.  He's now behind bars.

"Everyone can sleep a little easier now," Rollins said.

Joel Bunton is charged with violating his probation and failing to register as a sex offender. His mother is charged with obstructing an officer and harboring and concealing information about a sex offender.

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