, Port Arthur, Texas

April 28, 2009

Sex offender gives wrong address, innocent man scrutinized


GROVES — For a period of 24 hours, neighbors of Robert Farris thought he was a sex offender.

“I was mowing my lawn and a man in a truck drove by, slowed down and gave me the finger,” Farris said of Monday’s incident. “I quit mowing and went inside.”

Groves Police City Marshal Jeff Wilmore shed some light on the situation.

A sex offender by the name of Mark Steven Swilley, 44, provided wrong information regarding his address. The address listed for Swilley, 2743 Royal Ave., is actually the address of the home Farris is currently renting.

Swilley has never lived at that address, Wilmore said.

The Royal Avenue address is listed on Swilley’s drivers license and was entered into the sex offender database. He was recently indicted by the Jefferson County grand jury for failure to register as a sex offender and the Royal Avenue address was listed.

Swilley is accused of moving and not reporting his new address to Groves Police Department. A warrant for his arrest was issued last week.

On Tuesday afternoon, Wilmore received a call from the Conroe Office of the Montgomery County Sheriffs Office with news that Swilley was in that county attempting to report a change of address.

Swilley, a former Ohio resident, was arrested and will be transferred back to Jefferson County to face charges, Wilmore said.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Registry, Swilley was originally charged with gross sexual imposition and attempted rape, out of state, from an incident with a disposition date of Oct. 13, 1993.

Because of the address mix-up Farris received five letters from bail bondsmen and strange looks from his neighbors, he said.

One neighbor saw the indictment in the paper listing Farris’s address and brought the information to his attention.

“Today (Tuesday) and last night (Monday) were interesting,” Farris said. “Even a lady at the District Attorney’s office said this is the first time something like this has been brought to her attention.”

Farris even spoke with his landlord and joked about having a sign made saying something like “a sex offender does not live here.”

“For 24 hours everybody in the neighborhood thought I was a sex offender,” he said. “I was frustrated until about three hours ago (Tuesday afternoon).”