COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio — A registered sex offender may have been scaring your children for fun at a Northeast Ohio haunted house. It’s a tip received by News 5 Investigators, and in less than 24 hours, we learned two felons were fired.
Kim Neubauer says she worked at the Spooky Ranch in Columbia Station for one day this season before quitting.
"I did not want to go back this year but I thought I'd try it. I want to go have some fun and make some money. I wish I would have just stayed away,” said Neubauer.
Neubauer says when she found out sex offenders registered with Lorain County Sheriff’s Office were her co-workers, it was more than startling.
One is listed as a habitual child sex offender.
"I kept leaving my scene and coming in to check on him to make sure he was where he was supposed to be, because I was so uncomfortable knowing he was there,” said Neubauer.
News 5 checked with the Lorain Sheriff's Office, and Ohio law requires sex offenders to register and report where they live. There's nothing in the statute prohibiting working with children. However, there could be something in a judge's order in each individual case.
We went to Spooky Ranch to speak with the owners.
"There's no concern. We didn't know about this. As soon as we knew, we terminated them. They don't work for us," they said.
We asked how long they worked for them.
"Not very long, just a week. Two weekends. We got rid of the people. I think they worked three or four days here," the owner said.
When asked if either of them worked there during previous years, the owner responded, “No, no, no, no, no. Not that we know of — I didn't know anything about these people."
But another former employee said the habitual sex offender worked at the haunted house for years.
We asked if they did a background check.
“No, we didn’t. We didn’t know,” the owner said.
The office manager, who told News 5 she does the hiring, said they’re legally allowed to hire felons. When News 5 pressed about hiring registered sex offenders, she said she had apologized and made a mistake, and that it would never happen again.
We asked if there were any plans to change whether they’ll do background checks in the future.
“Yes we are. We are, we don't want any problems,” the owner said.
Neubauer says it wasn’t until the end of last season that she found out the extent of one man’s conviction.
She says she posted a review on Facebook to warn families.
"I think that it's everybody's duty to protect kids and watch out for them, and if they are going to have a place where children are going to be in the dark around people who are in costume and makeup, they should do background checks,” said Neubauer.
Neubauer says she left on her own and isn’t going to apologize for speaking up.
There is an effort in the statehouse right now to restrict where some sex offenders can work.
House Bill 459 would prevent certain offenders from working or volunteering in positions where they would directly work with children, like coaching youth sports or running a business that caters to kids.
That bill was introduced nearly a year ago and is still in committee.
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