Police warn parents to keep watch for released sex offender

Police warn parents to keep watch for released sex offender »Play Video
Thomas Lee Benson.

MILWAUKIE, Ore. – Police are asking parents and teachers to be on the lookout for a 39-year-old predatory sex offender with a taste for cross-dressing, especially near swimming pools with children.

Thomas Lee Benson is being released from jail Thursday night after he finishes a sentence for not registering as a sex offender. Probation and parole officials say there is a danger he will re-offend. Starting Friday, Benson will live at the Your Host Motel on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard in Milwaukie. There are three schools within a mile of his new home.

Benson was arrested at the North Clackamas Aquatic Park near the Clackamas Town Center mall last July when he went inside dressed as a woman and made contact with a little girl in the ladies locker room.
Thursday afternoon, parole and probation officers came back to the pool armed with fliers with Benson's picture on them. They hanged them at the pool and nearby, warning parents that the dangerous sex offender is free.

Brent Taylor, with Clackamas County Parole and Probation, said because Benson is a predator, there's always a danger he will offend again.

"Mr. Benson has done this before on two separate occasions. He has come to aquatic parks and locker rooms to gain access to minor females. On each occasion he dressed as a female," Taylor said.

Benson was arrested when he dressed as a woman and was caught in the ladies locker room at the Mount Scott Community Center Pool in 2007 as well. He was also caught in the women's dressing room at a local Nordstrom in 2009.

But children at pools are at the greatest risk, according to probation and parole officers.

Benson targeted girls between 5 and 9 years old in his neighborhood in 1994. He was convicted after prosecutors said he molested girls and paid to watch other abuse against children.

He has been sent to prison at least once, possibly twice, according to records, only to re-offend when released.

During a jailhouse interview with KATU News in October 2011, Benson said he no longer preys on children.

"I would also remind people that I do not go around having sex with young girls anymore and I have not been doing that in over 15 years," he said.

"When they have that title as a predatory sex offender in the state of Oregon, it should be of high concern to the community, and the likelihood of them doing this again would be higher than someone who does not have that designation," Taylor said.

Police are asking people to call 911 immediately if they see Benson anywhere he shouldn't be like parks, schools, pools or any other place where he could gain access to children.