Authorities, Convicted Sex Offender Speak Out About Haunted House

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A WTAP News investigation about a haunted house called Wicked Warehouse.

Here's what we know:

The business was owned by Lester Bowes - a convicted sex offender.

He's convicted of sexual battery on a thirteen year old boy and spent five years at the state prison in Orient, Ohio

Here's what we wanted to know:

Can he legally run a business clearly marketed toward teens and young adults?

What about background checks on the people working there?

And what does the sheriff's department have to say about the business?

According to the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Bowes is doing nothing wrong.

He gave up all rights to the business and says he will not be there anymore.

Legally, he did not have to do that.

The Wicked Warehouse is a new attraction to Marietta.

The news has spread through social media that a convicted sex offender was running the business and the community is buzzing about it.

Sgt. Patrice Tornes with the Washington County Sheriff's Office says legally the department can only notify the community if the person is a level three sex offender, and even then they are allowed to hold a job. Although, it may be more difficult. All sexual offenders are listed on the Washington County Sheriff's website.

"It's hard because you want the public to feel safe. And the last thing you want to say to the public is, 'there is nothing we can do about it'," says Sgt. Tornes. "Like us going down there and checking on him, that's really about as far as we could take it."

Bowes gave a statement and answered questions over the phone, saying the haunted house itself is not for kids - it is rated R.

"We have put our own rating of R on this attraction due to the content. We also state on the tickets and the website, that you should bring your younger children, at your discretion. As far as my role in the operation, I was just staying out front, directing traffic, activites outside, vans parking line organization and what not. I was not in costume; I was in plain clothes - not hiding," says Bowes. "What people are saying is that they don't want to see a person with my history, that's been to their lowest point in their life possible, come back and be a productive part of society. I thought it was a nation of second chances, I really think if these people knew me and knew my intentions, they wouldn't be causing such a stir. The haunt was created by several amazing individuals that are trying to do something good for this area. You have nothing to do in this area so, and we hear complaints about that all the time. They just enjoy acting and scaring people, I don't want all their hard work to go for not because of my past so I have backed down from ownership of the wicked warehouse, I am going to be clearing my personal belongings from the building and will not be returning for the rest of the season or ever. It's not my business anymore."

Bowes daughter also gave this statement:

"Halloween has always been a favorite of his. He loved the gorry make-up, the scary masks and the movies. This town has never had quite enough entertainment for people, and this was going to be the start of something great; great for the people involved because they enjoy doing it, and great for the town because they can enjoy experiencing it.
My father put blood, sweat and pure time into that Warehouse. He was there from sun up to sun down, and throughout the night. He's always been a go-getter, and I'm proud of him. He's done so much for this production and now he is being forced out by the narrow minds of our community. How can we expect criminals to be rehabilitated if we don't let them? How can they be a valuable member of our society if we don't support them? I've seen the comments; "it's a lure for child ren". Children should be nowhere near the Wicked Warehouse; it's not witches and werewolves. It's the stuff you see in horror movies. It was never intended to be a place for children. People don't care about the facts, though. They care about what gets them the most 'Likes' and 'Shares' on social networking. I'm truely ashamed to be apart of this community, as a whole," said Stephanie Bowes, Daughter.

Bowes says they do not do background checks on their employees.

Sgt. Tornes says they have received multiple calls from people upset about the Wicked Warehouse; however, not just about Bowes being involved, but the adult context inside the warehouse, as well.

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