A Georgia man has been arrested on 24-year-old charges of raping a young girl after the Charleston County Sheriff's Office discovered old warrants that had fallen through the cracks, allowing him to remain free, authorities said.
Walter Garrett, 54, formerly of Lambs Road in North Charleston, was arrested in Georgia and extradited back to South Carolina to face charges, Maj. Eric Watson.
Garrett was booked into the county jail on Friday on three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, jail records show.
He is accused of raping and molesting a 10-year-old girl in North Charleston between November 1989 and January 1990, according to arrest warrants.
Investigators with the old Charleston County Police Department got the case on Jan. 14 1990 after officials at Goodwin Elementary School reported the alleged sexual assaults, an incident report states.
Investigators obtained warrants for Garrett's arrest on Jan. 16 of that year, but the information wasn't entered into the FBI's National Crime Information Center database, a nationwide clearinghouse of data on wanted suspects, Watson said. That meant Garrett wouldn't show up as wanted for those crimes if he was stopped by police.
The sheriff's office, which merged with the county police in 1991, eventually entered the warrants for Garrett into the NCIC system in 2007 but they soon had to removed because they didn't have proper identifying information for the suspect, Watson said. The information didn't get updated or re-entered, and the slip-up went unnoticed until the recent audit.
Garrett was stopped by police in Clayton County, Ga., where he was living, on at least three occasions between 1994 and this year - twice for traffic violations and once, in 1994, for an assault and battery charge, court records show. He spent six months in jail on the battery charge but apparently was never flagged as a wanted man from South Carolina because the warrants were missing from NCIC, records show.
The recent audit was sparked by the discovery of unserved warrants from 1997 for a man accused of sexually assaulting a young girl on Johns Island. That man, 50-year-old Travis Kilgo, was captured in Florida and jailed here last month. During his time on the lam, Kilgo became a foster parent, authorities said.
Deputies have been working to hunt down others who slipped through the cracks over the years and avoided prosecution for their alleged crimes. Deputies are rechecking the status of 28,604 unserved warrants for potential errors, authorities said.
The audit of warrants pertaining to serious felonies produced 26 unserved arrest warrants from 1982 to 2002 that were not properly entered NCIC database.
Garrett was picked up on Dec. 31 by authorities in Clayton County, Ga., where he was an unemployed laborer, according to a booking sheet. He was extradited back to South Carolina on Friday, Watson said.
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