December 21, 2014

Protecting public creates pools of sex-crime felons in rural, less affluent areas in, around Jacksonville

8-21-2014 Florida:

When a 35-year-old mother was stabbed to death and a 10-year-old girl raped in Clay County on Dec. 1, many in the small Middleburg community learned for the first time that the sexual predator suspect was among 143 offenders who lived within five miles of the crime scene.

Registered predator Donald Hugh Davidson Jr. lived in a mobile home on the edge of that circle with another sex offender.

Clusters of such offenders end up being common in many areas due to the residency restrictions faced by some and economic difficulties, experts said.

In the Jacksonville area, where 2,300 predators and offenders are registered, the Times-Union found at least one house with seven offenders.

The city’s highest concentration of offenders and predators lies north of downtown in ZIP code 32206, encompassing Springfield and stretching to the Evergreen Cemetery and east to the St. Johns River, where about 180 offenders and predators call home.

Sex offender Robert Goeing Young, 55, whose home address on East 15th Street was within that boundary, was sentenced to life in prison in 2013. He was arrested after the family of an 8-year-old girl allowed him to sleep with their daughter at their home in another part of Jacksonville. They knew Young was an offender. He previously was convicted of molesting and impregnating another young girl in 1991.

In February, 32-year-old Kristopher Keith Reynolds turned himself in on charges of lewd and lascivious battery and impregnating a girl who was older than 12 but younger than 16. Reynolds, a registered offender whose permanent address was on East 19th Street less than a mile from where Young lived, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Jacksonville’s postal code with the second-highest concentration of sex-crime felons lies just west of the first, ZIP code 32209. About 340 registered predators and offenders live within the adjacent postal boundaries.


Most registered sex offenders and predators do not usually cause problems, said Sgt. Scott Moreland, who runs the special victims section of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office that supervises sex predators and offenders.

In Davidson’s case, he once went beyond his requirements when he notified the state of a change of address to a motel where he stayed one night before moving back to Middleburg, Moreland said.

Davidson’s past includes convictions in molestation cases involving two young girls in 2004 and 2005 and an attack on a pregnant woman in 2010. He was released from prison in September.

Now the 34-year-old is charged with the death of acquaintance Roseann Welsh and of abducting and sexually assaulting a child. His ankle-bracelet monitor was found at the homicide scene.

Moreland said Clay does not have county residency ordinances regarding sex-crime felons but follows state registration requirements.

Housing restrictions on predators and offenders at the state level are imposed according to their crimes, said spokeswoman Samantha Andrews of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Some communities have residential boundary ordinances in addition to the state’s sanctions, she said.

If the victim is younger than 16, then a person convicted of crimes including sexual battery, lewd and lascivious offenses, or viewing child pornography cannot live within 1,000 feet of schools and other places where children gather, according to state law.

Duval, Nassau and Baker counties extend that limit to 2,500 feet through local ordinances.

The state and local rules do create exceptions related to when the crimes were committed and when the offender established residency.

In Northeast Florida, St. Johns and Putnam counties do not have local ordinances.

Those convicted of sex crimes can be classified as offenders or, for more grievous crimes, as predators.

In Florida, sex offenders are those convicted of a sex offense involving a minor and include child pornography, sexual performance by a child and procuring a child for prostitution.

Predators include those convicted of a more serious, higher-degree felony such as raping a child or multiple offenses. They are designated a predator by the court.

Florida sex-crime laws require lifetime registrations, which also can become roadblocks to employment and housing.

Criminologists said laws designed to keep children safe can push predators and other sex offenders into knots within communities.

Door-to-door notifications by law enforcement personnel to surrounding neighbors when a predator moves in as well as a detective’s visit to the predator at least four times a year are required under the state law.

“It actually gives the community a little bit of education as to who is around them,” Moreland said.


While Jennifer Klein, now assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Texas at Tyler, was at the University of Florida, she studied the impacts of sex-offender status on offenders.

She said the laws often have unintended consequences.

In studies of female offenders, she found they lost jobs and housing and were subjected to harassment. Male offenders had similar experiences, she said.

If offenders and predators are lumped together, the percentage who will reoffend is about 7 percent to 15 percent, Klein said.

Job and housing applications often ask if the applicant is a felon.

“It’s hard enough to get a job as a convicted felon,” she said. “Sex offenders, it’s a double whammy.”

Restrictions on sex offenders are somewhat less stringent than on sex predators, but both tend to be grouped under the same legal umbrella, she said.

The only jobs most can get are low-paying ones that restrict where they can afford to live, she said.

“Either they are going to more rural areas or they are going to low-rent areas because that is all they can afford,” she said.

Landlords, she found, often charge higher rents because the renter is considered a liability.

Like many predators and offenders, Davidson lived far from affluent communities.

The day he was arrested, a horse stood next to the mobile home where he lived on a lot surrounded by trees. Welsh’s mobile home was an 11-minute drive away at the end of a long driveway at the intersection of two dirt roads.

Within a mile of where Davidson lived on Canvassback Road are four other sex offenders and one other predator. Fifty offenders, including 12 predators, live within three miles, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The ZIP code has the highest number of sex-crime felons in the county.

There are other clusters in outlying parts of Clay, said Moreland, including areas around Green Cove Springs and Keystone Heights.

“It just seems to progress a little farther out,” he said.


Derek Logue, 38, a Cincinnati sex offender and founder of the Once Fallen Internet site that advocates for changes in sex-offender registry guidelines, said rules regulating where offenders cannot live are particularly problematic in cities.

“You look at a map, there is a school here and park there if you live in an urban area,” he said. “And if you do live in an urban area, it is typically going to be a slum or a high-crime area.”

Logue has been out of prison since 2003 after serving about three years. He was charged with sexual abuse of an 11-year-old girl, according to Alabama sex offender records.

He moved to Ohio and he said he has difficulty finding jobs and housing and now lives on disability.

Society and lawmakers have painted sex offenders and predators with the same brush with laws intended to protect children, he said.

Predators, who are the real targets, may be the least affected, Logue said. “They don’t have to live under this,” he said. “They are going to be in prison for the rest of their lives or be executed.”

Ron Akers, a University of Florida professor emeritus whose expertise in criminological theory included studies of violent crime and deviance, said the differences between predators and offenders becomes blurred in the public eye.

When lawmakers write sex-crime legislation, their thinking is to throw a wide net so not to miss any potential problem groups. They want to avoid excluding someone who should be punished, he said.

“You get a kind of definition creep,” he said. “It starts including people who are not nice people, who may have done something inappropriate, but are they a danger to society?”

Akers said while recidivism rates among the broad population of offenders and predators is low, as the spotlight narrows onto the most violent, the likelihood of those offenders committing more crimes grows. And he said there is no way to measure crimes that occurred but were not reported.

A perception has evolved that sex-crime felons are driven by compulsion and highly likely to reoffend once out of prison, Akers said.

“So once they get out, you put controls on them,” he said.

In a ramshackle two-story house residents and the state call The White House on Jacksonville’s Stockton Street, Paul Grisham, 58, lives with six other sex offenders who each pay $750 a month to rent a private room or $530 a month to share a room with another renter, they said. One sleeps on the living-room couch.

Grisham pleaded guilty in 2005 to possession of child pornography after his arrest on child-performance charges, a third-degree felony.

According to his arrest report, police following a tip found computer disks at Grisham’s apartment that included videos of naked girls and images detectives deemed pornographic. While police in the report said it could not be definitely determined the girls were younger than 18, Grisham was charged based on what he and witnesses told detectives about the girls’ ages.

It is the only sex charge in his court file.

“We’re like the lepers of biblical times,” said Grisham, who has lived at the house for nine years.

After the arrest, he lost his job doing flooring for a Jacksonville company, then a hardware store job and then one at a mom-and-pop gas station.

He cannot work or live anywhere near where children may be, he said.

“If a child walks up to a bus stop, I walk away,” he said. “That’s the fear you live in. You have to.”

Moving away would be difficult. Apartment complexes often have playgrounds, which is a restriction.

Offenders need to be classified in more than two gradations, Grisham said.

“There needs to be different levels of offenders,” he said.

What he needed, he said, was treatment for pornography addiction.


This year state legislators unanimously passed laws to punish sex offenders following the rape and murder of Cherish Perrywinkle, the 8-year-old Jacksonville girl who was abducted from a Wal-Mart and whose body was found the next morning.

The man charged in the case, Donald James Smith, 58, was a registered offender who lived with his mother in a Jacksonville neighborhood with a low number of predators and offenders.

Cherish’s case and a finding by the Sun Sentinel in South Florida that some predators slipped through loopholes and were committing crimes after release from a treatment facility drove lawmakers to pass laws increasing penalties in some cases and adding information predators and offenders must report.

At the bill signing, then-Senate President Don Gaetz said the legislation sent a message that Florida is “scorched earth for all those seeking to harm our children.”

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said at the signing by Gov. Rick Scott that the laws were proof of the state’s commitment to keeping Florida’s children safe. ..Source.. by Dana Treen

No comments: