Registered sex offender now accused of luring child online

Some residents of Middleburg-area neighborhood say they didn’t know 19-year-old was registered sex offender until his arrest this week

19 year-old sex offender arrested again
19 year-old sex offender arrested again

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A registered sex offender who was convicted of sexual battery when he was minor is now facing new charges after Clay County detectives said he used a computer to lure a minor online.

Zaiden Morford, 19, was booked Tuesday into the Clay County jail on charges of using a computer to solicit a child and electronically transmitting harmful information to a minor, as well as failure to report name or residence change and failure to report email address internet or internet user names -- both of which are requirements for registered sex offenders.

Although the minor’s age was redacted from the arrest report, the report stated that Morford knew he was sending explicit content to someone underage. While it’s unclear when the alleged crime actually happened and how law enforcement learned of the alleged act, the report said the victim was questioned Dec. 18 by detectives at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office substation in Orange Park. The entire conversation was redacted from the report.

On Jan. 14, according to the report, Morford was questioned in the front yard of his residence. The conversation with detectives was also redacted.

On Tuesday afternoon, deputies arrived at Morford’s home to take him into custody on a warrant. On Wednesday morning, a judge set his bond at $400,000.

In 2016, when Morford was 15, he was convicted of two counts of sexual battery, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FDLE sex offender flyer for Morford shows he has four aliases. The flyer also shows the image of him on the flyer was taken Feb. 6 and his address registration was received Nov. 27.

The address listed on the flyer -- Pinto Road -- is in a neighborhood near Middleburg. Neighbors said he moved into the home -- which is close to other homes with young children -- with his grandmother, but they did not know he was a registered sex offender until his arrest this week.

“It’s scary. I have kids. We worry about our kids every day doing reckless things and I don’t need to worry about a kid behind me," a neighbor said. "He walked past our kids multiple times a day and we let our kids out to play, so it’s really scary to not know we had somebody like that behind us.”

But another neighbor, who’s a mother, was especially upset because she said Morford’s photo did not appear in her online search for sex offenders in the area before she rented her home.

“That’s very disturbing because it’s literally right behind where I reside," she said. "It’s terrifying.”

A family friend told News4Jax on Wednesday that Morford’s grandmother did not wish to talk because she was devastated after hearing about her grandson’s arrest.

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