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Escaped sex offender caught in Florida


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Patrick Wayne Bell, a registered sex offender, is in police custody.
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(CNN) -- A convicted sex offender who removed his tracking bracelet and bolted earlier this week is in police custody.

Deputy U.S. marshals and members of the service's North Florida Violent Fugitive Task Force nabbed Patrick Wayne Bell, 39, as he waited at a Tallahassee, Florida, bus stop across from the Greyhound bus station.

A spokesperson for the marshals service said the agency had information that Bell was in Tallahassee and heading north to southwest Georgia.

They placed Bell under arrest and hauled him to the Leon County jail.

A manhunt started after Bell removed the global-positioning-system tracking device on his ankle Tuesday and fled his mother's house in Riviera Beach, Florida, the Palm Beach County sheriff's office said.

Bell, a convicted sexual predator, completed his prison term last month and was living under supervised release at a motel in Greenacres, Florida, said Paul Miller, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

It is unclear when Bell left the hotel, and it is a felony for a registered sex offender to change residence and not inform police.

Florida defines a sexual predator as either a repeat sexual offender, a sexual offender who uses physical violence or a sexual offender who preys on children.

Bell was not living at his mother's house in Riviera Beach because it is near a day care center, and laws prohibit sexual offenders from living within 1,000 feet from areas like parks and schools.

A state database on sex offenders indicates Bell was convicted in 1999 of fondling a child under 16 and sexual battery on a child under 12.

Five days ago, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed the Jessica Lunsford Law, named after a girl who police said a sex offender admitted to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing in February.

Authorities have charged John Evander Couey with capital murder, burglary with battery, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child younger than 12 in Jessica's abduction and death.

The Lunsford Law, which goes into effect September 1, is an attempt to tighten Florida's sexual predator law. The legislation mandates lifetime monitoring of some offenders, and makes it a crime to knowingly harbor a sexual predator who flouts reporting requirements.


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