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Neighbors block sex offender from moving in by buying his home

8-13-1998 Oregon:
DILLEY, Ore. - When people in Dilley learned that a child molester was about to move in, they talked of getting guard dogs, arming themselves, burning down his home, even killing him. In the end, they did something more peaceful: They bought the house out from under him.

At least three families pooled their money and struck a $250,000 deal to buy his mother's house, where he was going to live when he got out of prison.

"If we didn't do everything possible to protect our children, we'd never forgive ourselves if something happened," Christie Unger said. "If all we lose is money, it's worth the peace of mind."

Child abuse experts and law enforcement officials said it's the first time a community has tried to block a molester from moving in by buying him out.

Jonathan I. Hawes, 29, has served nearly five years in prison for sexually abusing two 10-year-old girls in 1993. He had followed them from school to the home of one of the girls, and broke in.

Hawes is due to be released Tuesday, and had planned to move into his mother's house at the bottom of Puma Lane, about 200 feet from a school bus stop. Six families with 10 children live along the winding dirt road.

Over the past few months, the neighbors in this community of 300 to 400 people about 25 miles from Portland looked into buying guard dogs and studied up on when they could legally use deadly force.

"We wanted to persuade him that we hated him so much that people here were bearing arms," said Unger's husband, Paul, whose house at the top of the road is a playground for his four grandchildren, with a pool, riding stables, a trampoline and a collection of gumball machines.

At a community meeting held July 22 to discuss the situation with Hawes' mother, 50-year-old Wendy Brewton, tempers flared.

"The least violent thing I heard was to burn down his house," said Steven Fredricksen, a father of two.

At one point, a community member got in Brewton's face and shouted, "When can I kill him?! When can I kill him?!" Christie Unger recalled.

Cooler heads prevailed.

"It was just something I blurted out: 'We'd rather buy them out than burn them out,"' Christie Unger said.

Eventually, Fredericksen's family and at least two others agreed to pay Brewton the average of two state-approved appraisals on her 27 acres and prefabricated house. Strangers also pledged money to help the deal go through.

"If everyone in the community hates you, wants to sue you, wants to do you bodily harm, do you really have options at this point?" Brewton said.

The neighbors will put down $50,000 and take out a mortgage for the rest. They expect to close on the property by October, then they'll turn around and sell it. Brewton and her son's parole officer admitted they don't know where Hawes will go when he gets out of prison, but it won't be his mother's house.

Under Oregon's version of Megan's Law, the 1996 federal statute requiring states to notify neighborhoods when a sex offender moves in, police can alert neighbors only when the offender is classified as predatory. It has not been determined how Hawes will be classified, but Brewton's daughter told neighbors of his impending arrival.

Parole officer Bob Severe said Brewton's house appeared to meet basic surveillance requirements for freed sex offenders because it sits isolated from children in the middle of 27 acres of pasture. But neighbors say the site - nestled in chest-high grass miles away from the nearest police station - provides perfect cover for a sexual predator.

"They should put him in a place where he can be watched, not be watching us. He's got plenty of old tractors on the land to bury bodies with," Christie Unger said.

Severe said the neighbors' concerns are understandable but exaggerated.

"When you're dealing with a crime like this, you can never say people are cured, but our experience shows that the number of re-offenders is very small," the parole officer said, estimating it at lower than 10 percent in Washington County.

Brewton, an emergency room nurse who, coincidentally, treated one her son's victims, is confident he can be rehabilitated. But the people on Puma Lane don't want to be his neighbors while it happens.

"There may be people who feel they need a second chance," said Darlene Larson, "and those people should come forward with their addresses." ...more... by Hans Greimel

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe the mother caved in to the neighbors and sold her home.