Joe Earl "Puddin" Edwards – Repeat Sex Offender –

A registered sex offender whose arrest on a child enticement charge led to a segment on a national television program was sentenced to five years in prison and 15 years probation Friday.

Dallas County Circuit Judge Jack Meigs ordered Joe Earl “Puddin” Edwards to serve five years in prison and receive mental health counseling when he is released.

Edwards, who was held in the Dallas County Jail under a $500,000 bond following his arrest last August, pleaded guilty to a charge of enticing a child for immoral purposes.

Mary Kay Nichols and her 10-year-old daughter, Hannah Nichols, appeared on the syndicated “Maury Povich Show” in October to thank a couple whose daughter, Tabitha Tuder, was abducted in 2003 and remains missing.

The Alabama mother said she saw the TV segment and told Hannah what to do if she ever found herself in a similar situation — scream, shout and run away from anyone who might attempt to abduct her.

Hannah said had been at a bus stop, waiting to be taken to school and told her mother that a man had stopped his car near where she was standing, got out and began walking toward her.

Edwards, 52, was arrested not long after he was stopped in a vehicle that fit the description given by Hannah.

Mary Kay Nichols said she became aware of trouble when her daughter ran back toward their house, screaming “Mama! Mama!”

“(Edwards) gave two statements saying he wanted to have sex with a 10-year-old girl,” Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson said after the sentence was handed down. “He won’t be roaming around our county for at least five years.”

Edwards, who declined to make a statement as he stood before Meigs, lived near the house where Hannah Nichols lived with her parents and sister.

Selma defense lawyer Blanchard McLeod said he was pleased with the “split” sentence that reduced the original charge of 20 years to five years behind bars. Edwards is to serve the remaining time on probation.

“When you have a client who gives two confessions and has a record like his, you don’t win many cases,” McLeod said, not long after Edwards was led out of the courthouse in chains.

Waiting for Edwards outside were members of his family, including a woman who identified herself as his niece.

“He was set up,” said Billie Edwards. “He was under a lot of stress, but I don’t think he did what they say he did.”

She said her uncle was “on his way” to pick up his girlfriend when he was stopped by a Dallas County deputy sheriff.

“If I thought he was dangerous, I’d never have let him around my 14-year-old daughter,” she said. “I think they should have investigated this case better.”

Mary Kay Nichols said afterward she watched the Povich show in which the grieving parents of Tabitha Tuder spoke about their missing child, she called the program to express her appreciation.

As a result of her call, she and Hannah were invited to appear on the program. Debra and Bob Tuder also appeared on the show to meet the mother and daughter from Alabama.

“I’m just amazed that our story helped (Hannah) get away and that she listened to what her mother said,” Debra Tuder told Povich.

“25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years”
………Sarah Tofte

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