Petition aims to block sex predator
Lawrence mothers lead effort to keep Hendricks out of city
Kelli Duncan and others in her family began fuming when they learned about the state’s plan to release a sexual predator from a prison hospital and move him to Lawrence.
“Do they think we’re just a bunch of hillbillies out here and they can come dump whatever they want on us?” asked Duncan, the mother of a 9-year-old girl at Prairie Park School.
So Duncan, her two adult sisters and their mother set to work Friday.
The four began circulating petitions citywide asking lawmakers, city leaders and the state’s Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to stop the plan to move Leroy Hendricks to Lawrence.
As of Monday, they estimated they’d gathered anywhere from 200 to 1,500 signatures, but they said it was impossible to get an exact number because they’ve given many of the petitions to friends.
“I’ve been to doctors’ offices, I’ve taken one with me everywhere I’ve gone today,” said Duncan’s sister Missi Pfeifer, a hairstylist and mother of three. “All of my girls at work took them to church.”
Pfeifer said she’d like to gather 60,000 signatures, a figure equal to nearly three-fourths of Lawrence’s population, in coming weeks.
A judge said recently that Hendricks, a 70-year-old repeat child molester known for challenging the state’s sexual predator law, is ready to move on after a 10-year treatment at Larned State Hospital.
SRS signed a contract with an agency to house Hendricks under 24-hour supervision at an undisclosed home in Lawrence. The cost is estimated at $278,000 for 15 months.
Though the agency set to house Hendricks, Lawrence Community Innkeepers, has said the plan is “on hold,” SRS officials insist it’s going forward and say Hendricks could be here within two weeks.
“We were hoping we could have enough (petition signatures) to make a presentation of some kind in two weeks, three weeks tops,” said Pfeifer and Duncan’s mother, Charlotte Hastings. “He may already be here by then, but we can always get rid of him later.”
Hastings and her family members say they think Hendricks is getting special treatment by the state and should be imprisoned longer than he has been for his crimes.
One person who signed the petition, Debbie Johnson, said she was skeptical that Hendricks’ 10 years of treatment had cured him. Hendricks once was quoted saying the only way to guarantee he’d stop molesting children would be if he died.
“If he’s cured, why are our tax dollars paying for somebody to be watching him?” asked Johnson, a mother of three who works with Pfeifer at Shear Perfection, 123 W. Eighth St., one of the places where petitions are being distributed.
SRS officials could not be reached for comment Monday.