ST. JOHNS COUNTY – Authorities arrested a registered sex offender just before noon on Tuesday for violating his probation.
The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said Ronald Jones, 62, was tracked by GPS outside his probation perimeter. According to officials, if Jones is ordered to serve out his sentence that would keep him in prison until 2024.
Many residents in St. Johns County were concerned after the sheriff’s office alerted them about a sexual predator’s whereabouts.
Jones was released from prison after serving nine years for having sexual contact with a child. His registered address is in the woods behind a Winn-Dixie grocery store on U.S. 1 north of St. Augustine.
According to officials, once Jones left prison, he registered his address as the 3500 block of North Ponce de Leon Boulevard. The wooded area was approved by the Florida Department of Corrections.
“Our department cannot mandate if someone has a house, but we can do and what we try to do is to make sure that wherever they may be that they are well in the law and most importantly following the conditions and supervision's that have been set by the court," said Mckinley Lewis, communications director for the Department of Corrections.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said once released from prison, registered sexual predators are monitored and their address must be more than 1,000 feet from schools or places children congregate, like playgrounds. It’s not uncommon for small populations of transient offenders to come together in wooded areas like this one.
News4Jax spoke with a man named Johnny, who did not want to give out his last name and also lives in the wooded area Jones registered as his home. He said that he had met Jones last week.
"The ones that have been here, we look after each other. We take out care of each other and make sure we know what's around us,” he said.
Johnny also said that when the transient population found out about Jones' past they told him he was no longer welcome in the community.
"We saw him up at the Winn-Dixie and one of my friends was reading the newspaper and I just happen to see him in the newspapers. His picture and what he had done," Johnny said. "A few of us just went and decided to get him out of here. It said in the paper that he's a child molester, so he's untrustworthy."
Johnny also told New4Jax that kids frequent the area, which is a problem that his assigned officer may have to deal with in the near future.
“I think he just used this place because he had just gotten out of jail. I think his whole intentions were going south because he had his bags packed before we even said anything to him,” said Johnny.
It's unknown when Jones is supposed to check in with his assigned officer.
The public can access information about all sexual predators in the state by visiting News4Jax's sex offender database or by calling the FDLE'sr toll-free number 1-888-Flpredetor.