Leavenworth 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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
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."
- Sexual predator won't be moving in (04-29-06)
- Sexual predator still without residence (09-04-05)
- Judge upholds restraining order against Hendricks (07-20-05)
- 6News video: Judge upholds restraining order against sex predator home (07-19-05)
- Judge hears arguments on relocation of molester (07-13-05)
- 6News video: Court hears arguments about sexual predator group home (07-12-05)
- 6News video: Sexual predator ousted from group home (06-06-05)
- Questions persist about sex predator (06-05-05)
- Restraining order filed ordering Hendricks out (06-04-05)
- 6News video: Convicted child molester's location discovered (06-03-05)
- Notorious molester now in rural Lawrence (06-03-05)
- 6News video: Sex predator moves to rural Lawrence (06-02-05)
- Petition organizers see signs of support (05-12-05)
- State predicts high demand for program (04-26-05)
- 6News video: Local mothers circulate petition to keep sex predator away from Lawrence (04-25-05)
- Sex offender says move is in limbo (04-21-05)
- Agency: Molester doesn't pose danger (04-02-05)
- Notorious sex offender is moving to Lawrence (04-01-05)
- On the Street: Do you believe that child molesters can be rehabilitated? (04-01-05)
- 6News video: Sex offender moving to Lawrence (03-31-05)
- Sexual predator law under review (10-16-01)
- KBI.com: Registered offenders search
- Map of registered offenders in Douglas County