A sexual predator who was ready to leave a state prison hospital and move to Lawrence says he's now in limbo.
"I would be in Lawrence if somebody hadn't opened their damn mouth," said Leroy Hendricks, 70, who was reached by telephone Wednesday at Osawatomie State Hospital. "I'm stuck here till something happens, and I don't know when that will be."
The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services still intends to move Hendricks to a supervised group home in Lawrence. SRS spokesman Mike Deines said Hendricks could be here within three weeks but would not say where he will live, citing privacy concerns.
Hendricks, who molested at least 10 children over three decades, has been in Larned State Hospital for 10 years. Earlier this year, a judge found he was ready to leave the hospital and try living in the community again.
Hendricks said his treatment at Larned worked.
"People like me and alcoholics are the same," he said. "There's no cure. All you can do is learn to control, and that's what you learn -- you learn to change your thinking. When I got in here, I was a very angry man. I don't get angry any more."
Last month the state said it had a deal with Lawrence Community Innkeepers to house Hendricks and two other aging predators.
The idea was to put them in a group home at an undisclosed location, where they'd be escorted and cared for 24 hours per day. The cost of housing Hendricks was estimated at $278,000 for the first 15 months.
Hendricks said that on April 4, four days after the plan was publicized, he was ready to leave Larned and come to Lawrence.
"We had all my stuff loaded. We got out just past Cheyenne Bottoms, and the phone rang -- 'Oh, we've got to go back,'" Hendricks said.
The reason, Hendricks said, was news reports about the move.
"I think it would have worked if the publicity hadn't been there," he said.
After the plan was announced, the associate director of Lawrence Community Innkeepers said it was on hold. SRS officials insisted it was going forward.
Hendricks said he returned to Larned for about a week, then he was moved to a home on the grounds of the Osawatomie hospital. The Osawatomie site has been used by SRS to house younger sexual predators who leave Larned, but initially it wasn't considered for Hendricks because of his physical condition.
Hendricks said he suffered a stroke in 2001 and has limited use of his hands.
"I'll never completely recover from it," he said.
In the mid-1990s, Hendricks was the first person committed under the state's sexual-predator law, which allows high-risk offenders to be held for treatment even after they're done serving prison time. He unsuccessfully challenged it before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hendricks was famously quoted saying the only sure way he'd stop molesting children was if he died. But Hendricks said people misinterpreted that remark as a prediction that he would molest until he died.
He said community members shouldn't be worried he might be moving to Lawrence.
"If they know somebody's a sex offender, don't worry about him," Hendricks said. "He's in plain sight. It's the ones hid out there that they need to worry about."