Archive for Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Case against sexual predator progresses through courts

January 18, 2006

Leavenworth County's counselor Dave Van Parys hopes the state Supreme Court will side with the county in a dispute over a group home for violent sexual offenders.

The Supreme Court decision will determine whether a house in southern Leavenworth County can be used as a home for violent sexual predators.

Last week, Van Parys submitted a written argument to the Supreme Court, concluding that a decision in August by Leavenworth County District Judge David King should be upheld.

King's ruling prohibited a house at 24130 Golden Road, owned by Rick and Linda Whitson, from being used as a treatment facility for violent sexual predators.

Van Parys said he anticipates the Supreme Court will set a date for oral arguments to begin.

"The Whitsons have requested that, and, generally, a request like that is going to be granted," Van Parys said.

Van Parys, who has been county counselor since May 1990, said he could not exactly recall the last time a case of his had been sent to the Supreme Court.

"It's been a long time," Van Parys said. "Probably in the early to mid-'90s."

He said he believes the county's action was appropriate.

"I'm hopeful the court will uphold local land use controlled by the county," Van Parys said.

Moving to the county

The events that led to the Supreme Court case began last May, when the Whitsons, who live in Lawrence, purchased a home in southern Leavenworth County where they planned to house convicted sex offender LeRoy Hendricks.

Hendricks, who has a 50-year history of molesting children, has been widely quoted as saying the only way he would stop molesting children would be if he died.

In June, after Hendricks had completed part of a sexual predator treatment program at Larned State Hospital, the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services moved the wheelchair-bound 70-year-old sexual predator into the Whitsons' property.

The house is about five miles west of Linwood, just south of Kansas Highway 32. It is on a rural road that is dotted with houses.

The Whitsons had planned to keep Hendricks and, possibly in the future, several other sexual predators, under 24-hour surveillance. The state was going to pay $278,000 to house and guard Hendricks for 15 months.

County alleges violations

Leavenworth County commissioners were outraged that SRS had moved Hendricks into the county.

According to the county, the Whitsons had violated several zoning ordinances by:

  • Operating a commercial property in a residential neighborhood. County Commission-er Dean Oroke said it was a commercial venture based on the fact that the state would pay to house and guard Hendricks.
  • Indicating there would possibly be two or three more people like Hendricks living there, which would qualify the property as a group home. A group home would require a special-use permit -- granted by the county commission.
  • Installing security locks on the doors to keep residents from leaving. The county contends that means the home could be looked upon as being a detention facility.

On June 3, county officials gained a temporary restraining order to prevent Hendricks from living there or having the house used as a detention facility or nursing center.

Within days, Hendricks was removed from the home and taken to live at the grounds of Osawatomie State Hospital in Osawatomie.

On July 19, Leavenworth County District Judge David King granted a temporary injunction, and in August, King granted a permanent injunction that prevented the house from being used as a treatment facility for violent sexual predators.

On Sept. 6, Gregory Lee, an attorney for the Whitsons, filed a motion to transfer the case to the Kansas Supreme Court.

In his motion, Lee said the case had significant public interest because it involved the transfer of an individual in the state's sexual predator treatment program to a privately owned and operated and licensed group home.

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