A Jasper County jury decided Wednesday that a Galena, Kansas, man who served time in Missouri for burglary and a sex offender registration violation should remain confined beyond completion of his prison term as a sexually violent predator.
Jurors deliberated about 3 1/2 hours at the end of a three-day trial in Jasper County Circuit Court before returning a verdict finding that 53-year-old Theodore R. Stiles Jr. is a sexually violent predator as defined under state law.
The law provides for civil court commitment of inmates beyond completion of their prison term if the state can show that they suffer from “a mental abnormality” that renders them “more likely than not to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence.”
Stiles was convicted in March 1998 in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, of sexual abuse of two children, ages 7 and 5, and was sentenced to consecutive terms of 20 years on each count.
After his release from prison in Oklahoma, he moved to Galena, Kansas, and was working at Missouri Metal Recycling in Webb City in February 2016 when he was arrested for breaking into the home of a Joplin couple in the middle of the night.
Amber Scott, known then as Amber Conger, woke up and spotted a man in the hallway outside a bedroom in which four of her boyfriend Clarence Little’s children were sleeping. Conger woke up Little, and he yelled at the burglar, who ran out their front door.
But the intruder dropped a cellphone and a yellow rag as he fled.
Little found selfie photos of Stiles on the phone and pointed them out to police as the man who had been in their home. A further search of the phone confirmed that it belonged to Stiles.
Because Missouri law requires anyone convicted of sex offenses in another state who works in Missouri to register with the sheriff’s office in the county in which they are employed, Stiles completed a registration form for the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department on Dec. 8, 2015, listing his address in Galena.
The sex offender registration law also requires convicted offenders to list their phone numbers, email addresses and any social media accounts they may have.
A probable-cause affidavit filed in March 2016 with a charge of failure to register as a sex offender states that while Stiles acknowledged having a Facebook account, he failed to list a Snapchat account.
On June 25, 2018, Stiles pleaded guilty to both the burglary and the sex offender registration violation in a plea agreement calling for concurrent terms of 12 years and four years.
He was serving his time at the Moberly (Missouri) Correctional Center when the state attorney general’s filed a petition in April 2019 seeking a civil court commitment of him as a sexually violent predator before his expected release within the following year.
Stiles has been in the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health since the filing of that petition. Wednesday’s verdict means he will remain in the department’s custody until deemed no longer a threat to engage in sexually violent behavior.
Katharine Dolin and Paige Wheeler, the assistant attorneys general who handled the case for the state, called a psychologist from Vermont, Dr. Eric Jensen, to testify at this week’s trial that in his opinion Stiles suffers a mental abnormality that makes him likely to reoffend as a sexual predator.
Little, who flushed Stiles out of his home five years ago, told the Globe at the conclusion of the trial that he believes Stiles intended harm to one or more of his children that night.
Neither Little nor Scott knew Stiles at the time and cannot be certain why he chose to enter their home that night.
But Little said a Kansas police chief told him that Stiles once boasted to him that he never broke into a residence that he did not first “case.”
That makes Little believe Stiles knew there were children in the home and was targeting them.
“He’s a sexual predator,” Little said. “He had no reason to break into my house other than that.”