Mother fighting to change sex offender residency laws

Posted 4/28/15

Rebecca Carter received a notification two months ago that a sex offender was moving into her neighborhood and became extra wary when she saw it was the same street that her daughter’s bus stop is …

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Mother fighting to change sex offender residency laws

Posted

Rebecca Carter received a notification two months ago that a sex offender was moving into her neighborhood and became extra wary when she saw it was the same street that her daughter’s bus stop is on.

She started looking into the matter and found the offender, Byron de Weldon, 44, is living “appallingly close” to John Brown Francis Elementary School.

She was surprised to learn that sex offenders are permitted residency within 300 feet of a school.

Carter, who is a licensed mental health clinician working out of her own private practice, said that most states require sex offenders to be at least 1,000 feet away from a school and some even hold the rule for “areas where children congregate.”

In the Governor Francis Shopping Center, across from de Weldon’s residency, there is Newport Creamery, Ultimate Party Town and Veteran Gaming, all popular sites for the children of Governor Francis Farms.

“As the weather warms, there are kids everywhere,” Carter said. She said she would be stricter with her own children. She used to let her 11-year-old son go to Newport Creamery with friends and ride his bike around the neighborhood, but said she doesn’t see doing that this summer.

Carter isn’t the only parent worried.

She said there have been a lot of parents coming to her asking how to talk to their kids about what’s happening.

“The kids are on edge,” she said. “Kids should be informed for their safety, but they shouldn’t be frightened.”

In an extreme case, one of Carter’s friends, who lives very close to the offender and refused to be named and has an 11-year-old son, is talking with a realtor about moving out of the neighborhood.

“They feel terrorized and they are really freaked out,” Carter said.

The mother claims that de Weldon watches their house and leaves his door open while walking around shirtless.

Carter has reached out to the landlords of the building to no avail and has concerns because their ads say they do BCI checks, so either they didn’t do one or saw no problem with the proximity to the school.

The building does not have any children living in it.

She wonders who was the one to approve this residency choice.

She said, “It speaks to his state of mind that he would choose to live there. It’s like an alcoholic working in a bar; he’s going to give in. His risk of re-offending is so high here.”

Working with offenders, she says she knows how they work and as a therapist, it would be interesting to talk about it, but as a mother, she is disgusted. She is a mother first, especially in her own neighborhood.

“He can watch kids coming and going from the school. See who walks, who takes the bus, whose mom is late. I work with victims and I know how awful and damaging it is,” she said.

Carter has also reached out to the Warwick Police Department, “getting nothing accomplished.”

“I think the police are just as frustrated as I am. They get the calls from people in the neighborhood and they can’t do anything about it,” Carter said.

Lieutenant Michael Gilbert from the Warwick Police Department says police have received a lot of calls of concern from the neighborhood, but there have been no complaints, incidents or criminal activity reported.

He said they can understand why parents are unhappy, but the offender is currently abiding by the law.

She was also warned not to harass the offender, but Carter says she has no plans of doing so and doesn’t see what that would accomplish.

So affected by the situation, Carter reached out to both Senator Michael McCaffrey and Representative Joseph McNamara, who have both submitted legislation to change the 300 feet limit to 1,000 feet in the House and Senate.

McCaffrey said he was unaware of the situation before Carter contacted him but understands why parents would be concerned and would want something to change.

“I drive by that area a lot,” McCaffrey said. “From his supposed apartment, you can look straight onto the parking lot and the playground the students use.”

He said that he doesn’t think 1,000 feet is too much to ask to ensure the “safety, health and welfare of our state’s youth.”

Carter has resorted to distributing hundreds of flyers urging individuals to contact their legislators, especially McNamara and McCaffrey.

Carter isn’t sure legislation will pass this year and thinks the only way it may is if it distinguishes the restrictions for only Level III sex offenders.

“I figure if you shoot for the moon, you’ll end up amongst the stars, maybe we can get 800 or at least 500 feet,” Carter said.

The biggest problem facing the legislation, according to Carter, is the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has “historically opposed residency laws.”

Hillary Davis, policy associate at the American Civil Liberties Union Rhode Island Affiliate, confirmed that although they do not know any specifics of the offender in question, they oppose the current legislation.

The ACLU says residency restrictions for offenders have not proven to increase public safety, but can sometimes have the opposite effect.

“It pushes offenders farther away,” Davis said, “making finding housing difficult, which is key to making sure they have the stability for rehabilitation so they won’t re-offend again.”

Many times restriction laws make it very difficult for offenders to find housing and they end up on the streets where they cannot be monitored and police aren’t alerted.

“They disappear into the shadows. Chances of them re-offending are higher there,” Davis said.

Although they are not aware of specifics for this particular case near John Brown Francis, Davis said it is unlikely the proximity to a school will be the reason an individual re-offends.

“We understand the concern,” she said. “Parents have this idea that offenders just snatch kids up off the school yard, but offenders usually [go after] someone they are familiar with [where] they built a trust up.”

Davis cautions parents to see the “whole picture” and how residency allows the offender the stability to seek rehabilitation.

Carter said, “I know he still has his rights, but shouldn’t the rights of our children and their safety come first? He’s a convicted felon.”

Gilbert said although the police department would abide by the law, he feels even neighborhoods 1,001 feet from a school would show concern.

“You could move it to 1,000 feet, 2,000 feet,” he said, “ you could go on infinitely and you will find parents who are generally unhappy to have an offender living in their neighborhood.”

Even if the legislation were to pass, Carter knows police wouldn’t be able to do anything about the offender in her own neighborhood.

He would be “grandfathered” in and wouldn’t be required to move.

“He still has rights,” Carter said, “I just want to bring light to the issue and maybe make change for the next neighborhood.”

Carter currently has a petition on Change.org with over 100 signatures.

To sign the petition, visit www.change.org/p/ri-legislators-submit-a-bill-changing-residency-laws-for-sex-offenders.

Byron de Weldon, 44, a level III sex offender, is the son of famed Newport Sculptor Felix de Weldon, sculptor of Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. (bronze statue marines lifting flag), and grew up in Newport. He was convicted of 2nd degree child molestation, 3rd degree sexual assault, indecent assault and battery in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts with young boys 15 and under. Probation has expired on all charges.

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marwarr

"Probation has expired on all charges" and "the offender is currently abiding by the law".

Exactly what is it Mrs. Carter does not understand about that? If she objects to this man's residency she is free to pick up and move to a location that suits her. That is what is great about these United States of America. And thank you ACLU!

Besides.... these distance restrictions have been shown ad nauseum to have no effect on public safety - rather the opposite is true. 301' is okay - 299' a crime? 1001' is okay - 999' a crime? Laughable. I am guessing that Mrs. Carter's personal residence is within the radius that she is advocating for.

He has rights and your children have rights and it is not their right, in the name of safety, to impede his rights. Not so difficult a concept.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
HOSTTRANSITION

Excellent comment MARWARR and I couldn't agree more.

What’s amazing is that they have a false feeling of safety on assumptions that don’t even exist and wouldn't provide additional safety even if they did. Why the assumption that offenders wouldn't live within 300 feet, when Rhode Island doesn't even have a statewide residency restriction of 1000 feet?

Offenders abiding by the law are going to live somewhere. The important issue is are they causing anybody any harm, not where do they live? Making them relocate, when no law mandates they should have to only makes them closer to somebody else’s children. If they were truly a danger, why would you wish that upon anybody’s children? The reality is they usually are no danger, and nothing in the article suggested this offender was. People often forget that you don't have to be an already registered offender to commit a crime. The next crime is far more likely to happen by somebody not even currently on the registry.

Ms. Carter would probably be surprised to learn there are actually 8 offenders living in zip code 02888, seven in addition to the offender in question and one of them also being a level 3 in addition to the one mentioned. Why all the concern for the one she found out about and none for the other seven she probably doesn't even know about? She found out based upon a letter of his status, not an incident where he showed inappropriate behavior. A man walking shirtless in his own home is hardly a crime.

I've never been to Rhode Island and found this info about a place I've never been to in a 30 second search on the Rhode Island registry. I'm sure a truly "concerned" Rhode Island resident could do so as well if they stopped panicking and started learning.

The fact is, offenders who are abiding by the law must live somewhere and there is no reason to assume that just because they are within 1000 feet of such and such doesn't make them dangerous. If they move they’ll only be within 1000 feet of somewhere else. Residency restrictions protect nobody even when they do exist. In fact they decrease safety because it reduces the options that a law abiding person has. Making offenders homeless doesn't eliminate them it just gives them no place to sleep.

Restrictions may enforce where people sleep at night, but they don’t have anything to do with what an offender does during the day. Restrict them 1000 feet from schools and what makes you think they won’t travel 1001 feet, if it’s their purpose in life to commit a crime again? The reality is that’s not their purpose for most, and for the few creeps that do think that way, residency restrictions don’t stop them anyway.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
WillnTN

Marwarr said it exactly right. If this woman doesn't like living near a sex offender, she has every right to pack up and leave. She does NOT have the right to try to force this man to leave. He is in compliance with the law and his probation is expired on all charges. I also thank the A.C.L.U. for helping to knock some of these useless draconian laws down. They're meant for nothing more than harassment and unending punishment.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
WillnTN

HOSTTANSITION, you make excellent point. This woman probably doesn't care IF someone else's child is in danger, so long as HER child is not in danger. So long as the man's not bothering anyone's child and is continuing to abide by the law, he has as much right to be there as this meddlesome, complaining neighbor does.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
RiosWEN

Seems that Rebecca Carter is outright begging for a slander suit. I, too, am familiar with the notifications distributed a couple months ago, and I, too, "looked into the matter". Rebecca Carter now has a great deal of RI thinking that the individual in question chose to move in to said residence for the mere fact that it is in close proximity to a school, but it is my understanding that the individual knew someone who had already been living at said residence for quite a bit of time and moved in because he had no where else to go. That "speaks to his state of mind" remark is quite damning, and Rebecca Carter--a highly-educated woman--should certainly know better than to make such a disparaging comment without evidence.

As a mental health worker, she should also know that distance is nothing in these cases. The proper way to handle released offenders is by asking our politicians to do more in terms of tracking and monitoring, not creating more or less distance.

And as far as that "terrorized" neighbor goes, given the winter we've had, I'm curious to know more about this open door/walking around with no shirt business. Is she suggesting that this is how said individual spent his time in the freezing temperatures? I would also be very interested find out if these actions of him "watching their house" were reported to the police. Seems they would have to be if the claims weren't fictitious, yet the police lieutenant said there have been "no complaints, incidents or criminal activity reported."

The floor is yours, Rebecca Carter and neighbor.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
ShellyStow

The comments already posted are so well done, accurate, and informative that there is little left to say.

There is one other thing in the article that disturbs me--the comment that the children are disturbed or anxious, something to that effect. This angers me, because this means that this generation is passing on the false information, the myths, the lies, to a new generation and perpetuating the lies upon which our current laws are based. These children did not, by themselves, become anxious and disturbed by the presence of a person in the neighborhood with a past history of a specific sort of crime and then glean for themselves that this automatically means danger to them--which, actually, it doesn't.

Parents, please, stop the fear-mongering. Do some research. Learn the facts, many of which have already been covered in previous posts here. Two things you need to know in relation to your children and the sex offender registry: your children are far likelier to end up on the registry than they are to be harmed by someone on it, and the person the most likely to sexually harm your child is not a registrant but someone who would be welcome in you home and has most likely already been there frequently.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Commonsense2

I find it disconcerting that some people would minimize a mother’s concern for her children and those of other children when a verifiable, court certified threat exists to their wellbeing moves into their neighborhood. I think we could all agree a reaction of concern would be natural. A Level III Sex Offender has been determined to be at the highest risk to reoffend and when a multiple offender, in this case, prefers our most vulnerable (children under the age of 12) who is not known to the offender chooses to live just outside the 300 feet law with an unimpeded view to an Elementary School should raise questions. Add the high level of activity of children going to play Pokemon and laser tag a short walk literally across the street from this residence builds more questions. One is judged by the appearance of your actions, just as Ms. Carter has by some commenters on this page. What would you believe the intentions are of a Level III Sex Offender who has made such a decision to live in this particular location?

300 feet is minimal. It’s the equivalent of being about 4 houses away. Exactly a football field length without the end zones.

This is a common sense issue. In this case, the debt to society has been paid but the trust in the community has not been earned. I’d prefer such offenders lived on the moon, but 300 feet is not enough and falls woefully short of most other state laws.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
ShellyStow

Common sense, you are aware, are you not, that some states have no registry restrictions. Many states have no state-mandated ones but leave it up to jurisdictions. I trust you are further aware that there is no safety benefit in these sorts of restrictions. They are not supported by facts or evidence. Common sense is not always what it seems. Sometimes it needs to be bolstered by facts. Many states have issued statements as to why they do not implement these restrictions, but above all I like the one issued by Patty Wetterling/The Wetterling Foundation. I think that is because she first mixed the kool-aid, but once all the toxicity had been poured into it, she refused to drink it and speaks out against it.

"Because residency restrictions have been shown to be ineffective at preventing harm to children, and may indeed actually increase the risks to kids, the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center does not support residency restriction laws. Such laws can give a false sense of security while sapping resources that could produce better results used elsewhere.” (The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Jenn1000

Wow! It's no wonder there are so many screwed up children and adults in this state. These comments are disturbing at best. Sex offenders should NEVER see the light of day again. How can anyone defend a child molester? That is essentially what you sick freaks are doing in your comments! I hope none of you have children.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
marwarr

@ Commonsense2 - I have no problem with this woman wanting to protect her children. I applaud her. What I have a big problem with is that she is attempting to do so while trampling someone else's rights. That is just not acceptable.

"What would you believe the intentions are of a Level III Sex Offender who has made such a decision to live in this particular location? " Many things come to mind... he needs a place to live, a roof over his head. The residence was affordable. Did he live there before his conviction? To put it bluntly - it is really none of your business why he chose this location.

"300 feet is minimal. It’s the equivalent of being about 4 houses away. Exactly a football field length without the end zones. " Precisely. What is the point? Lets talk facts. Lets talk physics. Average walking speed for an unathletic adult is 4 feet per second. That means this guy could cover 300' in just over 1 minute. Walking. I am out of shape but I see me running a football field in 20 seconds or less. 1,000 takes 8 minutes at walking speed. Then they have these shiny new contraptions - the automobile. Those drive real fast. Combine that with the fact that residency restrictions have no measurable safety impact (see ShellyStow comment) I repeat - what is the point?

Other than the fact that you, Mrs. Carter, do not want this guy in what I presume is your neighborhood. What if you got him to move away from the school? He would then live next to someone else. But away from the school? Or away from you? I am guessing you do not mind as long as you are not inconvenienced. Can you spell NIMBY?

Quoting again, ShellyStow:

"Two things you need to know in relation to your children and the sex offender registry: your children are far likelier to end up on the registry than they are to be harmed by someone on it, and the person the most likely to sexually harm your child is not a registrant but someone who would be welcome in you home and has most likely already been there frequently. "

Oh, and the day that it is a crime for a man to look at a house and walk around shirtless in your own home is the day I move to North Korea.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
marwarr

@ Jenn1000 - not that it is any of your concern but I do have children and it is my greatest concern that they grow up in a country that sees fit to violate basic human rights for a select few they deem undesirable. With the 70 year anniversary of the end of WWII upon us it might be behoove you to crack open a history book to see where that sort of thing leads.

I will, until my very last breath, defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the Bill of Rights and the Basic Rights they affords to ALL. If that includes a child molester, so be it. If that makes me a sick freak, I can live with that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
ShellyStow

Yes, Jean; have children; have grandchildren; have family members who have been sexually molested...all by those close to and trusted by the family. Your first area of confusion is equating everyone on the registry--sex offenders--with child molesters. They are far from one and the same. It is a case of the old adage, "All dogs are animals, but all animals are not dog." And your second area of confusion is believing that monitoring/restricting/confining all of those sex offenders--those on the registry--will protect children. It won't. Virtually all sexual crime against children is committed by those close to the children and trusted by them and their families--i.e., the family members, peers, and authority figures of the victims. And the third is that wanting laws and policies that research and concrete evidence show will be effective is "defending child molesters." It isn't. Everyone wants to protect children. That is precisely why I am anti-public registry and anti-residency restrictions. All the focus on registrants keeps us from ever seriously addressing the real problem. The current sex offender industry does nothing to help victims, not past, present, or future ones. And I assume you know who Patty Wetterling is. Are you seriously calling her a sick freak because she is anti-residency restrictions?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Jenn1000

Please, you know exactly what I was talking about. Between the morons thanking God for the ACLU and the moron trying to say Carter should be charged with slander.........disgusting! It's typical of liberals though. They are only capable of relating to felons.....to hell with the victims. Sex offenders of any kind, don't deserve a second chance. People capable of such things are not capable of changing for the better.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
RiosWEN

Hi, Jenn. Just curious to know what you would do if this was one of your children. Just assume they had no where else to go and had to move back in with you. Just assume that you lived near a school. If you're not the type to shoo your child away, then how would you feel if a crusader who didn't bother to do their research implied that your child moved into your residence for the sole purpose of being in a close proximity to a school? I'm assuming since you would know the facts, you might be upset with a comment like that.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I looked into this case when I became aware of the notifications a while back. This man's taking up of residency was solely about moving in with someone who had already lived there for quite some time because he had no where else to go.

You act as if I am condoning child molestation, which I am not. My problem is with people who are so quick to jump to conclusions without doing their homework--especially those who are higly-educated and know how to conduct thorough research as that is a requirement of the degree Rebecca Carter holds.

Unless you can engage in a response free of name-calling, I will not hold any more of a discussion with you. You are certainly entitled to both your feelings and opinions, but please learn how to set a proper example and execute them without the names.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
ShellyStow

Jenn, I can't help but agree with Rios about your propensity for name-calling and insulting those with whom you disagree.

And wow--I have never though of myself as a liberal, but if you deny what the Bible teaches about redemption and second chances, and you are a conservative, then I guess I will accept the title of liberal graciously. I believe that only God is capable of knowing who will and will not change for the better--and I thank Him that that is His job, not mine.

I do have a question for you. How can you defend a system that does absolutely nothing for victims, since you say you care for victims so much? The current system is focused totally on former offenders and continuing their punishment. It offers nothing for victims, not any services for former victims or prevention programs for present and future victims. If we diverted even a portion of the resources spent on the registry system to providing support systems for former victims and comprehensive programs of awareness and prevention for present and future ones, then we would have done something worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
oncefallendotcom

When Iowa enforced 2000 foot residency restrictions in 2005, homelessness increased, absconding/ failure to register cases increased, and overall s*x crime rates slightly increased. In 209, Iowa repealed these restrictions for most registrants.

In South Florida, residency restrictions force registrants to live under bridges, along train tracks and in abandoned warehouses. The most egregious example was the camp living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway from 2007-2010.

Studies have failed to find any link between residency laws and re-offending, but the evidence of the negative impact of these laws is plain as day. More truth at oncefallen.

Thursday, April 30, 2015
oncefallendotcom

One last thing, if Rebecca Carter is "shooting for the moon" with this law, then she must be using North Korean rockets to aim for the moon.

Thursday, April 30, 2015
The Berg

It wouldn't surprise me if the majority of the above comments came from one person using several login names that were only recently created. These profiles don't appear to have left comments on any other article, and most of the comments are too congratulatory of each other and contain the same writing style.

Thursday, April 30, 2015
falina

Level III Offender: HIGHEST probability of re-offending. How many times has this guy been convicted? How many victims? Does the term PREDATOR mean nothing ? Think about that PREDATOR. With the highest likelihood of re-offending. (Again) No worries here......

Thursday, April 30, 2015
falina

Convicted of:

RI- 3rd Degree Sexual Assault. Victim was a 15 year male. 2nd Degree Child Molestation. Victims were three 11 year old males. MA Offense - Indecent Assault & Battery on Child under 14. Victim was an 11 year old male.

Thursday, April 30, 2015
deathtoperverts

As I read these comments I am throwing up in my mouth how anyone could side with a piece of maggot shit who drugs little boys and f**cks them in the ass isbeyond my comprehension, what about the INNOCENT people's right to not have their children raped, I have a great idea, why don't all of you supporters open up your houses to him, maybe have him babysit your children, or better yet lets get him a job as an overnight camp counselor for 10 - 15 year old boys. Yes thank you ACLU All-Criminals-Love-Us, protecting perverts "RIGHTS" to molest and rape even more INNOCENT children. He is guilty he should never see the light of day, may all of you supporters be the next victims of this animal or all the others like him you defend and then tell me how you feel you people are disgusting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 1, 2015