Alleged sex offender surrenders

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2005

GATESVILLE – Joseph Ezra Knight, the Drum Hill man who was the focus of a nationwide search, turned himself in to Gates County Sheriff Edward E. Webb around 6 p.m., Thursday.

Family members convinced him to turn himself in after his photo and an account if his alleged sexual crimes against two females ran on television that same evening.

Since 1989, Knight has had many brushes with local law enforcement, and he became the focus of &uot;Be on the Lookout&uot; flyers across the nation after allegedly committing 21 separate incidents of felony sex offenses against two young females.

He is now being held in the Chowan County Jail with a bond set for $825,000.

Knight, a 32-year old black male, became the focus of the nationwide search after allegedly beating and sexually assaulting the juveniles. He was considered by law enforcement to be dangerous with a criminal history marked by many violent felonies. The sheriff had warned the public to avoid contact with Knight because of that violent history.

Prior to Knight’s turning himself in, Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Johnnie Wiggins spent a cool and rainy night, October 25, chasing the suspect through crop fields, woods and residential yards in the Drum Hill neighborhood in Gates County. Knight, often seen riding a red and silver four-cycle motorized scooter along the roads in Drum Hill, lived in the tiny agricultural community. According to Sheriff Webb he was still making threats toward his family and friends in the area up until he surrendered.

Knight’s criminal file was a half-inch thick before Sheriff Webb and Sex Crimes Investigator Deputy Sheriff Glynda Parker went to the ADA Brinkley Falcon with the latest charges.

&uot;I was notified by a school counselor that one of the victims needed to talk with me,&uot; said Deputy Parker. &uot;I spent time at the school interviewing the victims and gathering information and then returned to the sheriff’s office to prepare the information for presentation to the ADA. When I interviewed the girls, they talked of past violence against them and evidence indicates that Knight had beaten them with sticks or limbs. They still carry the marks, some a year old.&uot;

Sheriff Webb said Parker worked intently from Tuesday through Thursday preparing the information. After beginning the investigation on Oct. 25, Parker was determined to get facts before the 18-member grand jury the following Monday. When she turned the case over to ADA Brinkley, he turned around in a trip to Elizabeth City, immediately returning to the Gates County Sheriff’s office.

&uot;That’s just unheard of,&uot; said Sheriff Webb. &uot;But, the charges against this man are so serious that we wanted to get warrants as soon as possible. Also, we are hoping that if there are other victims out there they will notify us. Deputy Parker will stand beside them through an investigation and see that justice is served. We have information that there is at least one other victim out there.&uot;

Knight’s criminal history spans 16 years with everything from felony larcenies, communicating threats, receiving and possession of stolen goods, resisting an officer, assault on a government official, violation of probation and breaking and entering.

Sentenced to nine years in prison at one time, Knight was released two years ago. At one point during his incarceration, he escaped jail and was subsequently charged with felony escape in 1999.

The victims’ statements revealed to Deputy Parker that the alleged abuse and sexual offenses against them have been going on for years. However; this is the first time it was reported and Knight charged with sexual crimes.

Parker said Portsmouth and Suffolk, Va. authorities assisted with the search for Knight. Portsmouth Police found leftover food items and clothing in a Portsmouth Boulevard motel where he spent a night in that city.

The investigator also said the two victims are currently being protected in a safe house. Parker said they want to return to school, but they are too scared. Sheriff Webb added that he is also proud of the girls for courageously coming forward with the facts.

He added he is also very pleased with investigative work by Deputy Parker and that Sgt. Wiggins is also to be commended for his involvement. Webb is also pleased with the grand jury.

&uot;This case was heard by 16 to 18 grand jury members, a good cross-section of the county, and they found the facts convincing enough to indict Knight on 21 counts,&uot; said Webb. &uot;These people have heard a lot of criminal cases but with this one, some cried. You could see they were physically and emotionally shaken when hearing the facts.&uot;

Parker added that she was also greatly disturbed by the facts of this particular case.

&uot;As the mother of two daughters… well, it is hard to comprehend this type of violent behavior,&uot; said the deputy. &uot;It tears a family apart because there are so many emotions and so much frustration. I know if it was my child, I’d want the investigators to work as hard as possible to find the suspect.&uot;

The Department of Social Services Director Colleen Turner and Social Work Supervisor Ann Holley were also involved in the investigation, and Sheriff Webb and Deputy Parker both said the social workers should be thanked for the intensive efforts they put forth.