Archive for Thursday, June 9, 2005

County takes stand against predator

June 9, 2005

Marcia Roberts is just glad Leroy Hendricks is gone.

Roberts lives in southwest Leavenworth County, not far from 24130 Golden Road, where Hendricks, the state's notorious sexual predator, was living last week.

Late Friday afternoon, Leavenworth County officials gained a temporary restraining order to prevent Hendricks from living there or having the house be used as a detention facility or nursing center.

Monday morning, Leavenworth County counselor David Van Parys said SRS officials had moved Hendricks back to Osawatomie State Hospital, where Hendricks had lived for two months prior to his June 1 arrival in southern Leavenworth County.

"We all feel a lot better with him being gone," said Roberts, who has a 6-year-old daughter. "It was quite a weekend."

Hendricks has a 50-year history of molesting children.

His most recent conviction was in 1984 when Hendricks was convicted of taking indecent liberties with two 13-year-old boys. In 1994 he became the first person committed under the Kansas sexual-predator treatment program, which allows high-risk sex offenders to be held against their will for treatment even after they've finished serving time in prison. He has recently completed a 10-year stay at Larned State Hospital.

Late last week, as neighbors learned of Hendrick's presence on Golden Road, they banded together, Roberts said.

"Several of the neighbors were keeping an eye on him (Hendricks) over the weekend with binoculars," Roberts said.

And, Roberts, an attorney for the state of Kansas, said there were plenty of sightseers in the neighborhood. She said there was more traffic on Golden Road than there had been in the five years she'd lived in the neighborhood.

Cover of darkness

Van Parys said the county was seeking a permanent injunction against the use of the property where Hendricks had stayed as either a nursing home or a detention facility without a special-use permit.

A hearing has been set for this week in Leavenworth County District Court to determine whether the temporary order becomes permanent.

If the court agrees to make the restraining order permanent, SRS will have to seek a special-use permit, which would be reviewed and voted on by the three-member Leavenworth County Commission.

Van Parys said there was no excuse for the way SRS moved Hendricks into the county.

"They basically snuck the guy in almost under the proverbial cover of darkness," Van Parys said Friday afternoon. "There was no contact with our planning department to determine whether the use was allowed. I think they're trying to determine it is a family home, and it is not a family home."

SRS should have checked with the county before moving Hendricks in, Van Parys said.

"The county feels that SRS, out of both courtesy and out of recognition of the local government, should have had some prior discussion regarding their actions," Van Parys said. "SRS had limited contact with law enforcement. They met with Sheriff Zoellner Wednesday afternoon, and the comments they had were, 'We would be there today.'"

Van Parys noted a failed SRS attempt earlier this year to move Hendricks to a home in Lawrence. Residents of Lawrence started a petition drive, garnering about 4,500 signatures in protest of Hendricks' planned move to Lawrence.

"It got a little hot in Lawrence, so they jumped across the county line," Van Parys said.

Notorious sex offender

Leavenworth County Commissioner Clyde Graeber said while he knew Hendricks was working his way through the state's sexual predator treatment program, he didn't want to comment on whether he thought the man was still a danger to society.

"I can only answer that this is one of the most known sexual offenders, I guess in our nation, even though he's now 70 years old," Graeber said. "And he himself admits it's something he doesn't apparently consider himself cured of."

Hendricks has been quoted as saying the only way he would quit molesting children was if he would die.

As soon as the word spread about Hendrick's new home in Leavenworth County, calls rolled in from irate residents, Graeber said.

"A lot of people out in that immediate area are very concerned about it and want us to take whatever action we can to prevent his residing there," Graeber said. "... We simply have told Mr. Van Parys to prepare to the greatest extent possible to prevent this occurrence (Hendricks staying in the county) from happening. ... All I know is that we do not want him in Leavenworth County."

Numerous violations

Leavenworth County Commissioner Dean Oroke, who represents southern Leavenworth County, said commissioners received help Friday afternoon in securing a restraining order to prevent Hendricks from living in the county.

"It was a lot of support and cooperation when you can get a district court judge and the courts to stay open after 5 o'clock," Oroke said, noting the sheriff's office served papers at the Golden Road residence around 8:30 p.m. Friday.

"We feel that everybody involved went over and beyond the expectation of doing their job and I think they realized the importance of the matter," Oroke added.

Like Graeber, Oroke received calls from county residents, particularly those who live in the neighborhood where Hendricks was placed.

In fact, Oroke said one of the families moved out of their house temporarily, not wanting their children to be where Hendricks might possibly hear them or see them.

Oroke said it appears that Richard and Linda Whitson, Lawrence, who on May 27 purchased the home where Hendricks was staying, have violated two, and maybe three, county zoning ordinances.

  • The owners are operating a commercial property in a residential neighborhood. Oroke said it is a commercial venture based on the fact that the state would pay $278,000 to house and guard Hendricks for a 15-month period.
  • The owners of the home have indicated there would possibly be two or three more people like Hendricks living there, which would qualify the property as a group home. "If you have three or more adults who are unrelated in a single-family residence, they have to have a special-use permit as a group home," Oroke said.
  • SRS indicated the home has security locks on the doors, which would keep the residents from leaving. "If that is in fact, it could be considered a detention facility, which requires a special-use permit," Oroke said.

In addition, Oroke said, public safety concerns, such as smoke detectors, escape routes and, because Hendricks was in a wheelchair, plans on how the township fire department would evacuate him from the building in the case of a fire, had not been addressed.

Working toward release

Here's how the program was supposed to have worked.

When contacted last week, Rick Whitson, the owner of the property on Golden Road, declined to comment, saying he was directing calls to SRS.

Friday afternoon, Mike Deines, public information officer for SRS, said Hendricks would be on 24-hour supervision at the Leavenworth County residence.

"The residence that he is in has a state-of-the-art security system. Any time a door opens, an alarm goes off," Deines said. "He will not be able to get out of the house without the workers there knowing about it."

The employees who would have worked with Hendricks were trained by SRS to do this type of work, Deines said.

The home-based care marked Hendrick's move into the sixth stage of the state's sexual predator treatment program.

"That phase is a transition release where he starts to have some contact with the community," Deines said. "As part of this program, he will have an opportunity to get out to go grocery shopping, go banking or go to a movie."

The next phase would be a conditional release, where Hendricks would be under the supervision of the courts for a minimum of five years. At that time, if he's followed the program successfully, he would have a change to be fully released from the program, Deines said.

Deines said he understood the concern expressed by Lawrence residents earlier this year when plans were announced to put Hendricks there.

"We certainly understand that there was some concern about his possible placement in Lawrence," Hendricks said. "But we've taken steps to ensure that public safety is number one."

Neighbor's view

One of the neighbors on Golden Road, understandably, can see both sides of the picture.

When told Friday that Hendricks lived about a block away from his house, The Rev. Rene Brown, who is minister at the Ninth Street Baptist Church in Lawrence, was surprised that Hendricks was moving to his rural neighborhood.

Brown and his wife, who have lived in the rural neighborhood for 15 years, have two children, a teenager and an 11-year-old son.

"We're always concerned about our children," Brown said Friday. "But I think that's something that God will have to deal with, I could put my faith in God."

Brown said his work helps him be understanding.

"I deal with people of all walks of life," Brown said. "I deal with a lot of homeless people, I deal with a lot of criminals. I have visitations to jails, I've seen both sides of it, and because I've seen both sides, I know anything is possible -- but it's all in God's hands, that's my honest opinion. I'm not going to be on the guard, I'm not going to be afraid."

After all, Brown said, Hendricks needs to live somewhere.

"Now, next to my house or next to your house, I couldn't wish it on you -- and you wouldn't want to wish it on me, but I have to practice what I preach," Brown said. "Now, if something goes wrong, that would be a different story, but I expect, certainly, the best."

While Brown didn't want to speculate on the effectiveness of rehabilitation for sexual predators, he did say what bothered him was the amount of money the state would spend in the final phases of the program.

"I'm interested in the money the state is putting out," Brown said. "Here we can't educate our children, but we can spend this kind of money to rehabilitate a person."

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