Illegal immigrant suspected of raping 92-year-old woman sheds light on growing problem

TELLICO PLAINS, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It's a crime that shocked the community, and East Tennessee -- The rape of a 92-year-old Tellico Plains woman.

Now, police say there's a suspect, but he may be hiding south of the border -- a place where tracking down a criminal can be tough.

But it may be just as tough naming them as suspects when they're living here illegally.

It's not just Monroe County, police in all of East Tennessee's counties are dealing with the same problem, tracking down suspects who are here illegally.

It's costing them more time and it's costing you more money.

More and more illegal immigrants are finding their way to Monroe County. But the sheriff says when an illegal is accused of a crime, finding him is often much tougher.

Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens says, "We run into folks that have got two or three different IDs. Determining who they are and things like that is a problem."

Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens says cases like the rape that the Tellico Plains Police are investigating illustrate the problem. Police say 35-year-old Francisco Barbosa, who also goes by the name Francisco Sanchez, kicked in a 92-year-old woman's door two months ago and raped her. His truck was found in Texas. He's believed to be in Mexico. The sheriff says that's why the difficult task of Identifying a suspect is just half the battle.

Bivens says, "It's more difficult to apprehend someone you don't have a previous record on. They may have been deported, may have come back. They get back quicker a lot of times than we can get them deported it seems like."

Ronnie Walker has an 85-year-old mother who lives in Tellico Plains, not far from where the rape ocurred. He says everyone was terrified for a while, but says he's confident police will get their man.

Walker says, "Some how or the other, they seem to find them, even when they do go to Mexico. So I have all the confidence that this guy will be brought back to justice."

Ultimately, the sheriff says whether illegals are brought to justice depends on how much help locals get from federal immigration authorities.

Bivens says, "It's difficult to get things done, a lot of times. I mean it's not like you can call just because you've got someone that's illegal and they're going to come and get them. It doesn't always happen that way."

The Sheriff's Department says its relationship with federal immigration officials has gotten better in recent months.

Still, they say it looks as if even the federal government simply does not have the resources to adequately deal with this growing problem.

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