A Fugitive Sex Offender Is Caught Here

South Carolina Sex Offender Registry

A man who reported a fire at an East Hampton house ended up being taken away in handcuffs on March 8 after police found him evasive in answering questions, according to Detective Sgt. Dan Toia. 

When the East Hampton Fire Department responded to 31 Cosdrew Lane just after 10 a.m. they not only saw an exterior fire, but “could tell something was up,” Detective Toia said. The man initially lied about his name and said he was a handyman working at the house. 

About 45 members, two engines, a tanker, a heavy rescue vehicle, and fire police units went to the scene and extinguished the blaze quickly, according to Chief Gerard Turza Jr. Tom Baker, an East Hampton Town fire marshal, said the fire was caused by a discarded cigarette.

By the time the Fire Department was wrapping up, at about 11 a.m., police had learned the caller’s name was Randy John Washburn and that he was a registered 57-year-old sex offender from Lancaster, S.C.. It was not clear how long Mr. Washburn had been staying at the house, Detective Toia said, and there was an active warrant for his arrest.

When Mr. Washburn learned he was being arrested, he tried to lock himself in a room at the house. Police officers “were able to talk him outside,” Detective Toia said. He was turned over to the Suffolk County fugitive squad for extradition; he was not charged locally. 

On Feb. 8, 2017, Mr. Washburn pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, a felony, according to the South Carolina Attorney General's office. Robert Kittle, a spokesman for that office, said Mr. Washburn was given a 10-year suspended sentence, upon completion of five years of probation. The Attorney General's office was not aware of Mr. Kittle's fugitive status. 

"We determined he had left a mental health facility last summer and failed to report to us," according to Peter O'Boyle, a spokesman from the South Carolina Probation Department. The Lancaster office issued an absconder warrant at that time.

The sex-offender registry listed him as a tier III sex offender and an “absconder.” 

According to The Herald, a newspaper in South Carolina, the South Carolina attorney general’s and Lancaster County sheriff’s offices had charged him with five counts of child pornography possession on Oct. 3, 2016. 

This article has been updated since it appeared in print on March 21, 2019.