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Sex offender briefly accused of killing kidnap victim wants Cleveland apology

Authorities have already confiscated a number of items from the home where three women were held captive for over ten years and will continue to search for clues today to explain what happened over that decade. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

A registered sex offender who was jailed in 2006 after a tipster wrongfully accused him of murdering kidnap victim Gina DeJesus wants an apology from the city of Cleveland.

“I’m happy they’re home and safe,” Matthew Hurayt said of DeJesus, and fellow kidnap victims Michele Knight and Amanda Berry, who were rescued by a neighbor Monday after years of captivity.

But Hurayt, whose home was searched in 2006 with TV cameras and a crowd of spectators watching, said there are still injustices connected to the case that need righting. “I want justice for the men that really did it, (the tipster) locked up and the city of Cleveland to make a public apology,” he said.

Hurayt, whose criminal record includes a conviction for sexual battery of two children, told NBC News that on Sept. 21, 2006, he and roommate John McDonough were arrested after a tipster said that he had raped and killed DeJesus and buried her under his new garage.

“The police jumped on that and plastered me all over the news,” said Hurayt.

Hurayt and McDonough were held for several days in the Cleveland City Jail on suspicion of the aggravated murder of DeJesus, who vanished in 2004. As a crowd gathered, police and FBI agents searched the house for 10 hours. They dug under his garage with a backhoe and chopped the cement floor into sections, and dug under the structure. They also dug under a dog house.

Authorities said that cadaver dogs had “indicated” at several places on the property, and they removed a number of items from the house for further investigation. But they found nothing tying Hurayt to the disappearance of DeJesus or that of Amanda Berry, who got into a strange car in 2003 and never came home.

Tony Dejak / AP

A daring escape and a dramatic 911 call led to the rescue of three women who allegedly had been held captive for years inside a home in Cleveland, Ohio.

“We're disappointed that the search wasn't as fruitful as we hoped,” police Lt. Thomas Stacho told the Cleveland Plain Dealer at the time. “But we would have been remiss if we didn't investigate this lead.” An FBI agent told the DeJesus family, which had already been notified of a possible break in the case, that nothing had been found, the paper said.

After Hurayt spent a weekend in jail, a judge ordered him released on Sept. 25, 2006, rejecting an assistant county prosecutor’s request to increase his bond on an unrelated assault case. Hurayt’s lawyer, Mark Marein, compared the search for remains on his client’s property to the search for Jimmy Hoffa.

Hurayt filed a claim for compensation for $20,000 in damages to Hurayt’s property with the city’s Moral Claims Commission, but it was rejected, said Marein.

Hurayt was required to register as a sex offender because of his sexual battery conviction. He was also convicted in the 2006 assault case, and served time in prison. After he was released in 2010, according to Hurayt, locals remembered that his home had been searched for DeJesus’s remains and continued to think he had some connection to the case. According to Hurayt, in the past three years people have broken his windows, set fire to his garage and harassed him with phone calls.

Marein said that his client was harassed on a daily basis. “He literally could not walk down the street without people busting his chops.”

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Thirteen years, three victims, one shared horror: What we know so far

Marein said the first telephone call he got Tuesday morning was from Hurayt. “It was, ‘I told you so.’ He wore that scarlet letter for a long time.”

According to Marein, Hurayt filed police reports detailing some of the incidents of harassment, but police “turned a blind eye.”

Public information officers for the Cleveland Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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