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18 years after the crime, local sex offender caught

SARASOTA — A Sarasota sex offender who absconded after he was sentenced for inappropriately touching a 14-year-old girl has been caught 18 years later in the nation’s capital, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Michael T. Cherry, 29 at the time of the crime, left the area in 1992, shortly after he received a sentence of five years probation for lewd and lascivious behavior.

Cherry, now 47, was found hiding under a bed Thursday and struggled briefly with authorities in a residence in Washington, D.C. He provided false information before revealing his identity.

As a part of probation, sex offender registrants are required to check in and notify the state of their residence, said Wendy Rose, spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Arrangements are being made to extradite him back to Sarasota, Rose said.

It is not known if Cherry has committed other similar offenses since fleeing the area, she said.

“Unless we have victims who have come forward, there’s no way to tell until we talk to him,” Rose said.

The sheriff’s office’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit, which was reorganized from the warrants division earlier this month, worked with the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force to catch Cherry.

“Several people were involved with this guy over the years and they periodically did different searches looking for him,” Rose said. “They got better and better information and worked some leads. ... Obviously when someone’s been on the run for 18 years, it’s ... good to bring them back to face proper judgment.”