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Ernest Reigh: Sexual predator on the run from St. Lucie County captured in Vermont

Posted at 12:14 AM, Apr 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-29 00:14:22-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- A “Sexually Violent Predator” on the run from St. Lucie County for nearly two months has been captured.

Ernest Reigh was found in a homeless shelter in Burlington, Vermont.

U.S. Marshalls say a person called them claiming Reigh was staying at the shelter.

The caller recognized Reigh's picture, which was spreading nationally through the news and social media.

But, there was a specific detail she reported which set her tip apart from the countless reported sightings across the country.

In her physical description of Reigh, she mentioned a physical trait that investigators never made public: A glass eye.

Investigators knew if someone noticed it, they could set that tip apart from the rest.

The tip ended up leading them right to Reigh, who was arrested and booked into a Vermot jail.

He will be extradited to St. Lucie County within the next week.

The woman who Reigh sexually assaulted when she was a child says this arrest is a relief for her family.

She spoke only to WPTV Friday.

She says U.S. Marshalls and a detective with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office called her early Friday afternoon, saying a watchful woman found him.

“To whomever it was, wherever you are, Thank you so much for doing that. For ending this for us,” the woman said.

She says she has been living in fear while Reigh was on the run.

“You just don’t know where he is, where he could be or if he’s around here hiding,” she said. “I will get a good night sleep for the first time in two months, knowing that he is behind bars, not out there somewhere.”

Investigators focused mainly on trying to find Reigh in states where they know he has family or friends, like North Carolina or Pennsylvania.

They credit social media for helping Reigh’s picture get to the right person in Vermont.

“I can’t express my gratitude for everybody who shared it, for everybody that commented, for everyone that was looking for him that doesn’t know me,” she said.

But, her battle with Reigh is not over yet.

She wants to make sure what her family went through, doesn’t happen to other families.

She’s calling for changes to the state’s inmate release program for sexual predators.

“He’s not the only one who’s missing. And their families are dealing with the same thing I was dealing with,” the woman said.

When Reigh was released from prison after serving more than a decade for the sex crimes, prison staff dropped him off at a bus stop in Fort Pierce.

He was expected to check in with his parole office and register his address under a sexual offender registry within 48 hours.

That never happened, and there was no way to know where he was going.

“Put a monitor on them,” she suggests, until they comply with the terms of their release.

She says they should be monitored until they can prove they will follow the law.

The woman who called in the tip on Reigh will receive a $2,000 reward from the U.S. Marshalls.