Sex offenders living in hotels

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Did you know sex offenders live in hotels? They're living in rooms right next to people who have no idea they could be at risk.

Gateway Inn on Asheville Highway is home to sex offenders Chelsea Nicley, George Jones, and Jasper Stevens. Stevens just got out of prison for molesting a 4 year-old boy and is considered a high-risk offender.

When we told Melissa Copelan that these sex offenders live right next door to her and her son she was surprised. Melissa Copelan says, "My kids don't leave my sight. They don't go in anybody's room. Not out of eyesight from me."

Regency Inn on East Magnolia is another motel that three sex offenders list as their home address.

So what's the deal? It's not illegal for sex offenders to live in hotels as long as it's not within a thousand feet of a school, park, or daycare. Ed Kingsbury with Knoxville Police Department says, "It's easier than trying to find an apartment. They don't have to put down a KUB deposit, a water deposit, or an apartment deposit. They get cash and stay in hotels for a few days or a few weeks."

Ed Kingsbury keeps track of registered sex offenders in Knoxville. He tells me it makes his job easier when sex offenders stay in hotels because it gets them off the streets.

That might not make you feel very secure if you're traveling, so make sure you check the hotel address with TBI's sex offender registry so you don't end up next to someone who could harm you.

Ed Kingsbury says, "I wouldn't stay at a hotel knowing a sex offender was staying there."

The owners of Regency Inn and Gateway Inn tell me they work closely with police to monitor illegal activity. They say if anyone bothers guests, they'll kick them out.

As long as the sex offenders don't cause problems and pay their rent, they can stay.

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