Sheriff's Office

PR #:
Date Issued:
Sep 22, 2021 - 3:51PM

For Immediate Release

Local law enforcement agencies arrest sex offenders in partnership with RSONU
Please note: this is a regional press release

Sarah Johns
Washoe County Sheriff's Office
Office: 775-785-6235
Cell: 775-391-0407


Two convicted sex offenders are in custody at the Washoe County Detention Facility after local law enforcement agencies, in partnership with the Regional Sex Offender Notification Unit (RSONU) made the arrests.

Emmett Thigpen, 52, is charged with one felony count of being a sex offender who failed to register, second or more offense; and one felony charge of being a sex offender who failed 90-day compliance check, second or more offense. The RSONU developed probable cause to arrest Thigpen in May of 2021; however, his whereabouts were unknown. He was located and arrested by the Reno Police Department (RPD) on September 20, 2021, for RSONU’s probable cause. During RPD’s contact with Thigpen he attempted to flee; therefore, he is also charged with one misdemeanor count of resisting a public officer. Thigpen is a Tier II sex offender previously convicted for crimes against children.

James Cornelius, 54, was arrested by the Reno Police Department for one felony count of robbery on September 14, 2021. It was discovered that Cornelius was a sex offender who had been out of compliance since 2018. The RSONU add-booked him on one felony charge of being a sex offender who failed to register on September 15th. Cornelius is a Tier III sex offender previously convicted for sexual assault by force.

The RSONU was formed in 1998 to be in compliance with federal law passed in 1997.  At that time Washoe County, the City of Sparks and the City of Reno all agreed there was a need for coordination in law enforcement in the tracking, monitoring, investigation, public notification, and the arrest and prosecution of non-compliant sex offenders.  The RSONU operates as a regional, multi-jurisdictional and collaborative entity to carry out the requirements of community notifications as set forth in Chapter 179D of the Nevada Revised Statutes.  The RSONU’s jurisdictional boundaries encompass all of Washoe County, including the Cities of Reno and Sparks.

Currently, there are about 1400 registered sex offenders in the Reno, Sparks and Washoe County area.  Each of the three investigators are assigned more than 400 offenders to monitor.

The RSONU is open Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm, excluding holidays, and can be reached at 775-325-6483.

Photo 1: Emmett Thigpen
Photo 2: James Cornelius



The Washoe County Sheriff's Office is dedicated to preserving a safe and secure community with professionalism, respect, integrity and the highest commitment to equality. Sheriff Darin Balaam is the 27th person elected to serve as the Sheriff of Washoe County since the Office was created in 1861. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office strives to ensure public safety by building trust and creating partnerships within the diverse communities in which we serve. We will promote the dignity of all people supported by our words and actions through open communication while fostering an environment of professionalism, integrity and mutual respect.


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