Judge hears arguments on relocation of molester

SRS fighting court order blocking Hendricks' move

? A decision could come within a week on whether a repeat child molester is allowed to live in a group home in southwest Leavenworth County.

During a two-hour hearing Tuesday in Leavenworth County District Court, Judge David King heard arguments for and against placing 70-year-old Leroy Hendricks in the home on Golden Road, near Lawrence. Until King makes a decision, a temporary order keeping Hendricks out of the home remains in effect.

“We’re afraid that if Leavenworth County gets the job done and they enforce the injunction, it’ll be dumped back in Douglas County,” said Lawrence resident Charlotte Hastings, who organized a petition drive to stop a plan to house Hendricks in Lawrence.

The dispute, now three months old, could be a sign of similar battles to come in years ahead, both in Kansas and nationwide.

Program growing

Starting in the mid-1990s, at least 16 states enacted “sexual-predator” laws similar to the Kansas law that has allowed Hendricks to be held against his will the past decade at Larned State Hospital. But, at least in Kansas’ case, the overwhelming number of people admitted to the program have yet to proceed through treatment to the point they’re allowed to try living in the community again.

Austin desLauriers, a psychologist with the sexual predator treatment program at Larned State Hospital, talks about Leroy Hendricks and his treatment, during a court hearing on Tuesday morning in Leavenworth County.

“We just haven’t had many graduates of these programs,” attorney Gregory Lee, who’s representing the agency that wants to house Hendricks, said during Tuesday’s hearing.

One recent estimate was that the 136-person program at Larned could grow by about 100 residents in the next decade, a factor that’s causing the state to consider a new range of options to get residents out the door more quickly.

Community ‘concerns’

A recent report by the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit said at least 10 residents of the Larned program have become frail or disabled because of physical disease – a number likely to grow in the future.

The report listed two options for moving residents out of the program more quickly: transferring medically frail residents to community group homes, and releasing younger residents back into the community instead of to the state hospital in Osawatomie when they finish all five treatment steps at Larned.

State leaders say though there are no specific plans to expand community housing for rehabbed sexual predators, it’s reasonable to expect more disputes in the future about where they go once they leave Larned.

From left, Leavenworth County Commissioner Gerald Oroke and Charlotte Hastings and Missy Pfeifer, both of Lawrence, watch the court hearing on the proposed group home in Leavenworth County.

“There’s bound to be questions and concerns, and we’re prepared to work with communities to answer those questions,” Mike Deines of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services said.

Safety disputed

Leavenworth County Commissioners got a temporary restraining order last month after alleging the group home that would house Hendricks violated zoning laws. The purpose of Tuesday’s hearing was to determine whether it should become a permanent injunction.

Hendricks, who for now is living at Osawatomie State Hospital, did not attend the hearing.

Lee, who represents Lawrence-based Community Provisional Living, which has contracted with SRS to care for Hendricks, called witnesses who described Hendricks’ deteriorating physical health, the five phases of treatment he’s completed at Larned, and the round-the-clock supervision he would receive in the group home.

Austin DesLauriers, a psychologist who has overseen some of Hendricks’ treatment, testified he didn’t think Hendricks would be at risk for reoffending while living in the group home.

“It’s a structured, supervised program that, in my view, will not permit that to occur,” he said.

But Leavenworth County Counselor David Van Parys repeatedly said that Hendricks poses some danger, otherwise he wouldn’t need to be supervised.

Lee argued that the restraining order “discriminates against someone that is developmentally disabled and entitled to live in a group home.”