Inviting Sex Offenders Home: When Mom's Relationship Puts Children at Risk

Lanning said he couldn't comment specifically on Haylee Donathan's disappearance, but he said women who choose to stick by sexual predators, even at the risk of their own children, have succumbed to the offenders' ability to prey on their vulnerabilities.

"Adult human beings tend to believe what they want or need to believe," he said. "Someone to tell her she's pretty, someone to support her.

"The more desperate she is and the greater the need, the more vulnerable she becomes to this," Lanning said.

'Nothing's Been Proven Yet'

Haylee's grandmother, Mary Watson, said she isn't sure whether her daughter went on the run with Potter willingly at this point.

"It was like her voice was shaky the last time," Watson said of the last time she spoke to her daughter the day she disappeared. "And her voice was short."

The last known sighting of Haylee before she was found was at an Ohio Wal-Mart they day she was reported missing. Deserto said Watson was caught on the store's surveillance system returning a tent and allegedly stealing some clothes while Donathan and a child believed to be Haylee waited in the parking lot.

Watson was seen again getting into the passenger side of the truck at a Colorado gas station June 2, Deserto said. While police believe that Donathan was in the driver's seat, Haylee couldn't be seen.

Potter's criminal history includes prison time for two counts of sexual battery and Deserto said he has a history of child sexual abuse.

But Mary Watson said her daughter had no idea of the severity of Potter's crimes until after she picked him up.

As for the charges against her daughter and son and the others, Mary Watson said she's not sure what to believe.

"I don't know nothing about them helping" Potter escape, she said. "Nothing's been proven yet."

But in an interview with the Mansfield News Journal, Cyle Watson, who served his own prison sentence on a rape conviction, admitted to helping Potter leave the halfway house, but said he only did so in hopes Potter would get in trouble with the law -- retribution, Cyle Watson told the paper, for not paying a debt.

"Things are really, really serious. It went from a trick to now," he told the Journal from inside jail. "He messed with another girl. He might be messing with my niece."

'He Would Have Done It a Little Sooner'

Lanning said mothers who knowingly admit sex offenders into their lives aren't knowingly stupid. Women with high self-esteem, good educations and successful careers are less likely to fall into this trap, he said, but aren't immune.

"The more needy you are, the more you need to believe," he said.

In last month's murder of 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan, her mother had relationships with two sexual offenders who have since been jailed because their parole conditions prohibited associations with women who have children.

Though no arrests have been made since Nevaeh's body was found in a cement-covered grave along the River Raisin in Michigan June 4, Monroe County Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield has called George Kennedy, 39, and Roy Lee Smith, 48, persons of interest.

Some locals have begun turning against Nevaeh's mother, Jennifer Buchanan, for giving sex offenders access to her only child.

Buchanan told the Detroit Free Press in an interview earlier this month that she was "completely innocent" in Nevaeh's disappearance and murder.

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