By Mindy Lucas
A man who volunteered to dress up as the Easter Bunny at a local egg hunt on Sunday, March 28, was later found to be a registered sex offender, according to an incident report made by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
Brandon Allen Turner stepped in to play the role at the children’s event held at the Moose Lodge, on Broad River Boulevard, after another individual originally set to play the Easter Bunny was a no-show, according to the report.
Turner was convicted on felony charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2016. In South Carolina, individuals who are convicted and placed on the sex offender registry are listed on the registry for life.
The event, sponsored by the Moose Lodge 1855, featured a children’s Easter egg hunt, food, games and other activities, according to an event flier.
Investigators with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office were made aware of Turner’s presence at the event two days later by two individuals – one who recognized Turner as a registered sex offender while attending the event. The other individual reported seeing a post about the incident on social media.
A post that appeared on Facebook warned event planners to “please do your research before you let someone be apart of a youth event.”
During an interview with an investigator, Turner said the lodge’s management was aware of his status as a registered sex offender when he offered to step in. He was attending the event with family members, he said.
However, an administrator with the Moose Lodge said they were unaware Turner was a registered sex offender when he volunteered to play the Easter Bunny, the report stated, and that a member of the lodge vouched for him.
In 2016, Turner, who was 18 then and reported to be from the Grays Hill area, was arrested on charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, according to news reports from the time and the recent incident report. Both the victim and Turner were students at Whale Branch Early College High School in Seabrook.
The victim allegedly told friends she had been raped in July of 2016. The friends later reported the incident to the sheriff’s office, at which point an investigation and subsequent conviction followed.
Turner, who received five years probation, is required to register on a quarterly basis with the sheriff’s office.
Turner’s probation ended in December of 2020 and was found to be in compliance with the registry. There are no current restrictions placed on Turner by the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, the report stated.
No arrests were made in the incident, the sheriff’s department confirmed last week.
According to the incident, the lodge administrator said it did not conduct a criminal background check before allowing Turner to play the Easter Bunny and interact with children and described it as “an oversight” on their part.
It is the lodge’s policy not to use sex offenders or felons to work in any capacity, the administrator said. In addition, she said in the future, they would conduct more research in order to “protect their reputation among the community,” the report stated.
Calls made to the Moose Lodge were not returned last week.
The sheriff’s office investigator discussed with the parties involved how to access the sex offender website for “public awareness and safety.”
Mindy Lucas is the Beaufort reporter for The Island News and is a staff writer for Lowcountry Weekly. She can be reached at email@example.com.