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Fugitive sex offender from Plano arrested in New Mexico

A convicted sex offender and former Plano school district teacher of the year has been arrested in New Mexico after being on the run from authorities for more than two years.

A convicted sex offender and former Plano school district teacher of the year has been arrested in New Mexico after being on the run from authorities for more than two years.

Joe Wayne Cates, 51, was placed on the Texas Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list after he tried to fake his own death and went into hiding.

"He'd mailed a suicide note and will to one of his friends right before he disappeared in 2006," said Dirk Fillpot, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office. "It said he'd hired people to kill him and hide his body. He left similar notes about this in his home."

The ruse apparently didn't deter investigators with the attorney general's fugitive unit, which tracked Mr. Cates to a restaurant in Sandia Park, N.M., where he worked as a dishwasher. He was arrested Friday.

Mr. Cates has waived his right to an extradition hearing, but it was unclear when he would be returned to Texas. Once he is back, he will face charges of parole violation and failure to register as a sex offender, Mr. Fillpot said.

Mr. Cates, a former assistant principal who once led a church youth program, was convicted in 2003 of three counts of indecency with a child. He was sentenced to four years in prison and 10 years' probation.

He was paroled in 2004, then disappeared two years later after a warrant was issued for his arrest on a parole violation charge.

In 2001, Plano police investigated Mr. Cates when a former Hendrick Middle School student reported that Mr. Cates sexually abused him in the summer of 1989, court records indicate.

Two weeks after the investigation began, Mr. Cates was found inside his car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He survived his injuries and was found guilty of fondling three boys between June 1989 and May 1994. The victims ranged from 8 to 14 years old.

One of the victims told the jury that he was abused at Mr. Cates' East Plano home the night before a trip to Oklahoma with a church group.

For 16 years, Mr. Cates was director of the youth program at The Reformed Church in Plano, where he wrote children's plays and led youth trips.

Another victim told the jury that he was abused in Mr. Cates' classroom.

Mr. Cates, who graduated from Plano High School in 1975, taught at Hughston Elementary School, Wilson Middle School and Hendrick Middle School. He also was assistant principal at Wilson and coordinated the district's after-school program.

In 1985, when he was a physical education teacher at Hughston, he was named Plano ISD's Teacher of the Year.