Agency: Molester doesn’t pose danger

Lawrence residents shouldn’t worry that one of the state’s most notorious sex offenders is about to move to an undisclosed location in the city.

That’s according to Rick Whitson, associate director of Lawrence Community Innkeepers, the agency that will supervise and care for 70-year-old Leroy Hendricks when he ends his 10-year stay in a sexual-predator treatment program at Larned State Hospital.

“He won’t be a threat,” Whitson said.

Whitson said Friday that the ailing Hendricks — who a judge recently said was ready to make the transition back into the community — may be the only sexual offender in Lawrence who would be supervised full time.

“How many of the other dots on your map have 24-hour surveillance?” Whitson asked, referring to a map of Douglas County registered offenders published in Friday’s Journal-World. “I doubt that many of them are over 50, 60 years old with health problems. I would say that this gentleman presents very little risk.”

Plan on hold?

But Whitson also said that because of the Journal-World article Friday about Hendricks’ impending release, the plan to bring him from Larned to Lawrence might not happen.

“Let me just say that as of right now, it’s on hold, and that’s all I can tell you,” he said.

But according to the State’s Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which oversees the Larned hospital, the move is still on. It might not happen early next week, though, as previously announced.

“It’s going forward,” SRS spokesman Mike Deines said Friday.

Last month the state signed a contract with Lawrence Community Innkeepers to house Hendricks and potentially more aging sexual predators in the future.

About the agency

Lawrence Community Innkeepers, at 1095 North 1750 Road, is run by Whitson and his wife, Linda, the agency’s president. The agency runs homes for adults with special needs and is affiliated with Cottonwood Inc., but Cottonwood has nothing to do with the plan to supervise Hendricks.

The plan is to move Hendricks into a free-standing Lawrence home equipped with an alarm system and tailored to hold him and up to two more aging sexual predators. But to protect Hendricks’ privacy, neither Rick Whitson nor the state will tell the public where the home is.

The superintendent at Larned said he believed Hendricks uses a wheelchair, and Whitson said his agency has been looking for a home without stairs.

According to the contract, Rick Whitson and a staff of six people will be responsible for supervising Hendricks and future residents. The staff will help residents master “life skills,” take them to appointments, and monitor their use of computers, TV and mail.

KBI screening

The agency’s employees have “as needed” training in restraint techniques, according to the contract it has with the state for tending the predators.

Anyone hired to attend to Hendricks would have to go through a screening by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Whitson said. Workers also would meet with Larned staff members at the beginning of Hendricks’ stay to learn about his monitoring plan.

But the contract leaves other details of supervision and training of employees up to the agency. Laura Howard, assistant SRS secretary, said she didn’t think there were any requirements that staff members be trained in specific security procedures.

“This program that we have developed … is for folks who have significant health issues due to aging, disability and the like,” Howard said. “It is very much like the same kinds of attendant care services that the elderly would receive.”

SRS would monitor the residential program with site visits, telephone calls and e-mails.

The cost to house Hendricks will be roughly $278,000 for the first 15 months. Whitson said that’s not high, considering the around-the-clock care.

According to the contract, the six staff members will earn an average of $1,622 per month each, but it doesn’t spell out hourly rates.

In 1994 Hendricks, who has a long history of molesting children, became the first person committed to Larned under a law that allowed sexual predators to be held even after they’d finished serving time in prison. He later fought the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court but lost.

Whitson said caring for Hendricks would be no different from caring for anyone else with special needs.

“You take care of them, you make sure they’re safe,” he said. “That’s your responsibility.”