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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Notorious molester now in rural Lawrence

June 3, 2005

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The state has moved a sexual predator from a prison hospital to a group home in the Lawrence area.

Leroy Hendricks, 70, moved to the area late Wednesday, the department of Social and Rehabilitation Services announced Thursday. Instead of living inside the city limits as previously considered, Hendricks is living in an undisclosed location near Lawrence in rural Leavenworth County.

Hendricks will be under 24-hour supervision by employees of a private agency that has a contract to house him at a cost of $278,000 for the first 15 months. Up to two more aging sexual predators could join him at the home.

The state will not say exactly where Hendricks is living, citing concerns for his privacy.

"It's not a subdivision. We're talking rural here - gravel roads," said Mike Deines, a spokesman for the state's Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

Charlotte Hastings, a Lawrence resident who gathered signatures on a petition opposing Hendricks' move, said she was pleased he wasn't living in Lawrence but upset there wasn't more opportunity for public comment before it happened. She and her daughters gathered about 4,500 signatures in recent weeks on the petition.

"The publicity that we got with our petition had to have had some effect," she said.

Hastings said she wanted a state law preventing sex offenders from living near schools and churches. She also wants to ensure that the state doesn't set up sexual-predator group homes in residential areas.

SRS officials said the outcry in Lawrence was not the reason Hendricks moved to the rural setting. The first proposed location fell through, spokesman Mike Deines said.

Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, who signed Hastings' petition, said he thought the rural setting would be "more appropriate."

"I think that a lot of people in this community, including myself, had concerns about locating him in some kind of residential setting where there might be kids nearby," he said.

A judge ruled recently that Hendricks was ready to try living in the community again after a 10-year stay at Larned State Hospital. In 1994 he became the first person committed under the sexual-predator treatment program, which allows high-risk sex offenders to be held against their will for treatment even after they've finished serving time in prison.

He became notorious for fighting the program and losing before the U.S. Supreme Court, and he famously was quoted saying that the only sure way he would stop molesting children would be if he died.

The state announced in late March that Hendricks would move to Lawrence within days. But shortly afterward, he was diverted to Osawatomie State Hospital and stayed there for nearly two months.

Hendricks told the Journal-World in a recent interview that he suffered a stroke in 2001 and had limited use of his hands. A supervisor for the agency that will be monitoring him, Lawrence Community Innkeepers, said Hendricks was not a threat to public safety because of his advanced age, health problems and the 24-hour surveillance.

Whitson and six staff members will be responsible for supervising Hendricks. They'll take him to appointments, monitor his television and computer use, and help him adjust to life outside the hospital - for example, by teaching him to use an ATM card.

The home is equipped with a security system that goes off when a door is opened from the inside.

"He will be running errands, but he will be with staff," said Leslie Huss, central office coordinator for the sexual predator treatment program.

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