published Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Marion County seeks offender in child rape case

Marion County, Tenn., authorities are searching for a known sex offender in connection with a child rape case involving a 4-year-old girl.

Chief Detective Gene Hargis said investigators are looking for 34-year-old Joshua Luke Mitchell, a white man between 5 foot 7 and 5 foot 10, weighing between 175 and 190 pounds with blue eyes and blond or strawberry-blond hair, according to information listed on the Alabama, North Carolina and Texas sex offender registries.

The Texas registry lists Mitchell as "high risk."

Hargis said Mitchell is wanted in Marion County on charges of rape of a child and violation of the sex offender registry. The charges involve an incident Sunday in the Haletown area, Hargis said, and Mitchell is an acquaintance of the victim's family.

"He had been living in Marion County for approximately two months and had not registered here," Hargis said. "He's actually in the system under three states as a registered sex offender for separate crimes."

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials said the victim will be examined to determine the nature of the assault, he said.

The Alabama registry, updated Jan. 27, lists Mitchell's last known address as Route 124, in Jackson, Ohio, and also lists a Jan. 15, 1999, conviction for indecent liberties with a 15-year-old girl.

Mitchell is described as a drifter who picks up odd jobs to make money, according to officials. He has been known to work at carnivals, but he has no identification or vehicle, Hargis said.

He last was seen Monday morning at Hales Bar Marina, and he could be trying to get to North Carolina via U.S. Highway 64, Hargis said. Mitchell could be headed to his mother's home in Sherrils Ford, N.C., and he had tried to get a ride from Haletown to Charlotte, N.C., the detective said.

"We believe he may be trying to make his way to North Carolina, but he also has connections in Ohio, Texas and Florida," Hargis said.

Mike Taylor, 12th Judicial District attorney general, said that if Mitchell is found in another state his office will seek his return.

The Marion County charges against Mitchell have been listed with the National Crime Information Center system "with a tag that we will extradite," Taylor said.

According to the sex offender registry, Mitchell has some identifying tattoos -- one on his right arm reading "Flesh of My Flesh Daniel Blood of My Blood," another on his right forearm depicting a dragon inside a diamond and a tribal tattoo with skulls on his left upper arm.

Although his most recent mugshot shows a clean-shaven Mitchell, officials said he now could have a "scruffy" beard.

Anyone with any information on Mitchell's whereabouts is asked to call the Marion County Sheriff's Office at 423-942-2525.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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