- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

BALTIMORE — An 11-year-old boy missing since Friday was found slain early yesterday on the grounds of a city golf course near his home, and a twice-convicted child sex offender was arrested in the death.

An autopsy was being performed on the body of Irvin Harris.

“The body had suffered a level of decomposition,” Detective Donny Moses, a police spokesman, said. “Everything points to the fact that he was actually killed on Friday.”

The suspect, Melvin Jones Jr., 52, was arrested yesterday afternoon inside a downtown fast-food restaurant after police got an anonymous tip that he was there.

He was taken into custody without incident, Detective Moses said. Jones was charged late yesterday with first-degree murder and other charges, said Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman. Bail had not been set.

Jones’ most recent conviction, for a third-degree sex offense, was in 2002, and he told police during questioning “that he was a pedophile who needed help,” according to court documents.

Col. Fred Bealefeld, the police department’s chief of detectives, described Jones as the family’s friend and said there was “every indication” that Irvin’s mother knew about Jones’ 2002 conviction.

“I’m blaming myself right now,” Shanda Harris told WBAL-TV. “By trusting Melvin, now my son is gone.”

Jones has a lengthy record dating to 1970, when he was charged with rape, said Joseph Sviatko, a spokesman for the city state’s attorney’s office.

The state declined to prosecute that case, but Jones pleaded guilty in January 2002 to a third-degree sex offense and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but one year suspended. The victim in that case was a 15-year-old boy, Mr. Sviatko said.

The victim in the 2002 case met Jones when he was walking home from school, and the two had sex several times over about 18 months, according to court documents.

Jones pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse in 1989 and served slightly more than seven months in prison, Mr. Sviatko said. Jones also was convicted of indecent exposure in 1994, harassment in 1989 and battery in 1988.

In addition to the rape charge, two other charges against Jones were dismissed from court: a second-degree sex offense in 2000 and a third-degree sex offense in 1989.

Jones registered as a sex offender after his 2002 conviction and remains on active probation, Mr. Sviatko said. There were no indications Jones had violated his probation before his arrest.

Detectives found the boy’s body about 3:30 a.m. yesterday in a densely wooded area on the grounds of Clifton Park Golf Course, out of the sight of golfers, Detective Moses said.

Irvin was last seen by his family Friday about noon, when he left to walk to a nearby grocery store, Detective Moses said.

The legislature this year approved a law that made sweeping changes to the way child sex offenders are punished in Maryland.

The law imposes mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of the most serious sex crimes against children 13 or younger. That aspect of the law would not have applied to Jones.

But the law also requires people convicted of sex crimes against children to check in with the state several times a year and submit DNA samples and annual photographs.

Failure to report constitutes a felony.

President Bush signed a law last week that requires child molesters to be listed on a national Internet database and face a felony charge for failing to update their whereabouts.

“Any type of tracking of offenders is important not only as a deterrent to keep an offender from committing a crime, but obviously you can track an offender when they’re released back into the community and know whether that person is where he or she needs to be,” said Stacie Rumenap, executive director of Stop Child Predators, a District-based group that has pushed for such bills in all 50 states.

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