A group trying to block a sexual predator's move to Lawrence says it has gathered about 5,000 petition signatures and is starting to get lawmakers' attention.
"I think we're just now starting to make a bit of headway," said Charlotte Hastings, who's working with her three adult daughters to try to stop Leroy Hendricks' planned move to Lawrence from a state prison hospital.
Hastings and her daughters have been collecting signatures downtown and in front of Checkers Foods, 2300 La., in recent days. One person who signed the petition is Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.
Davis said he was working to arrange a meeting between officials with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and concerned Lawrence residents.
"I don't think anybody wants someone with the history of Leroy Hendricks living in their neighborhood," he said. "I certainly wouldn't want him living near children in my neighborhood, either. I think we also have to understand that Mr. Hendricks is going to wind up somewhere."
Despite the petition drive, the state says the plan to move Hendricks to a supervised group home in Lawrence is going forward. As of Wednesday, he was still living on the grounds of Osawatomie State Hospital, where he was sent temporarily last month, said Mike Deines, an SRS spokesman.
Hendricks, 77, has a 30-year history of molesting children. In 1994 he became the first person committed under the state's sexually violent predator law, which allowed high-risk sex offenders to be kept in a hospital against their will for treatment.
Earlier this year a judge in Wichita found Hendricks was progressing in his treatment and was ready to move back into the community under supervision. The state said it had signed a contract with a Lawrence agency, Lawrence Community Innkeepers, to house Hendricks at a cost of about $278,000 for 15 months.
The state has refused to say where Hendricks will live, citing concern for his privacy.