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Lauderdale woman faces charges after confrontation with sex offender

12-3-2007 Florida:

Davie - As Valerie Parkhurst was warning neighbors about sex offenders, one of them turned down the street.

She confronted him at gunpoint, and ended up in jail.

Parkhurst, 52, said Monday she was surprised police arrested her after the confrontation with Dale Weeks, 49, in the Playland Village neighborhood on Saturday. She was charged with aggravated assault and two counts of carrying a concealed firearm without a permit.

"I had a convicted sex offender, kidnapper who cornered me," Parkhurst said. "I don't expect to be convicted on any one of those [charges] because I was in the right."

Weeks was convicted in 1996 of abducting and raping a Walton County woman, according to state records. He served nine years and was released from prison in May 2005

Lt. Wayne Boulier, Davie police spokesman, said he can understand that neighbors are concerned when a registered sex offender moves into a community.

"Still, that doesn't justify pulling out a gun and threatening to kill people," he said.

Police said in a report released Monday that Weeks and girlfriend Maria Rodriguez were driving on the 4600 block of Southwest 66th Avenue at 1:50 p.m. Saturday. They were headed to a thrift shop to buy clothes when they came upon Parkhurst, who was posting fliers of sex offenders in the area. Parkhurst recognized Weeks and thought he was following her. So she got out of her Chevy SUV, pulled 9-millimeter Glock from a holster, and told Weeks she would kill him, police said.

Rodriguez, who was behind the wheel, froze and could not drive away, police said. Parkhurst went back to her SUV, grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun, pointed it into the pair's car and again threatened to kill Weeks, police said.

"It's a vigilante-style move," Weeks said Monday. "She has no right to blow me away."

Parkhurst disputes the police account, saying that Weeks and Rodriguez stalked her after they saw her put up the fliers at Weeks' complex hours earlier. Parkhurst said they blocked her in at a dead-end street. When she got out of her truck to ask what they were doing, Parkhurst said Weeks threatened her in a profanity-laced rant.

That's when Parkhurst, mother of an adult son, threatened to shoot him if he touched her, she said. When Weeks continued to swear at her, she grabbed the shotgun she keeps in her SUV for her and her boyfriend's weekly clay shooting practice.

"I figured if the pistol didn't scare him, maybe the shotgun would," Parkhurst said. "I stood there with the shotgun and said, 'If you come near me, I promise you, I will shoot you.'"



Weeks called police. The officer arrested Parkhurst because she does not have a permit for either fully-loaded gun, police said. Rodriguez and Weeks were "terrified that she was going to kill them," the police report states.

Parkhurst posted $6,000 bond and was released from jail Sunday, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Parkhurst said she didn't think she needed permits, because they weapons were not concealed. Also, this is the first time she's had such a confrontation with an offender, in the many years since she's been posting fliers in Playland Village, where she owns a home, she said. She lives in Fort Lauderdale.

"The Department of Corrections will drop them off anywhere and hope that nobody notices," she said. "But I scream. I'm not going to have [Playland Village] be a dumping ground for sex offenders."

Weeks' rap sheet goes back to 1977 and includes other convictions for trespassing, cocaine possession, culpable negligence, battery, theft and carrying a concealed weapon. He said he became a law clerk while incarcerated and has been working off-and-on in different cities since his release.

Weeks said he's dealt with angry residents before, in many neighborhoods he has lived in. He said many people mistake registered sex offenders for pedophiles.

"I don't hold it against anybody to protect their children," Weeks said. "I just wish that all this money spent... some of it would be spent on educating the community."

Nancy Cotterman, director of Broward's Sexual Assault Treatment Center, said the confrontation represents a conflict between those who want to help their communities, and offenders who are trying to help themselves.

"You don't want people taking the law into their own hands, because that could jeopardize well-meaning people's safety," she said. "But at the same time, we are each other's keepers and we all have the responsibility to keep each other alert."

"For those sex offenders who are making every attempt to be law-abiding and to re-engage and be fully-functioning citizens, you have to support them. There's a balance to be found there somewhere," she said. ..more.. by Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.



Davie anti-sex offender activist on the defensive

12-25-2007 Florida:

She says she might end her warnings

In the mid-1980s, Valerie Parkhurst began distributing fliers to warn her neighbors in Davie about sex offenders — before many notification laws and accessible registries existed.

The single mom wanted to protect her son, then about 9, and the other children in Playland Village, a rental community to which many such offenders moved once released from prison.

When the state established an online sex offender registry, Parkhurst said, there was no way for residents to determine who the worst offenders were. So she researched the background of offenders who moved into her community. If their crimes were especially violent, she'd let her neighbors know.

"I am pretty methodical about what I do," said Parkhurst, 52. "It would do my cause no good to be a hysterical neighbor who's just throwing fliers around. I only pick the ones with the most heinous crimes against women and children."

The work became a passion. She gained recognition from people in the community and fellow activists.

Then, on Dec. 1, she landed in jail on charges of aggravated assault and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. If convicted, Parkhurst faces five years in prison on each charge, the State Attorney's Office said.

Police say Parkhurst threatened to kill a registered sex offender, Dale Weeks, and his girlfriend, Maria Rodriguez, when they turned onto the street where she was handing out fliers about a different sex offender, a few miles from where Weeks lives in Davie. Parkhurst and Rodriguez had had words earlier that day when Parkhurst was handing out fliers about Weeks.

Weeks called her a vigilante. Although he respects Parkhurst's right to notify the neighborhood, he said, she should not be carrying a gun and endangering people's lives.

"That woman could've shot anybody," Weeks said. "She could've struck a child, the bullet could've ricocheted — I don't know. It's a very sad situation when someone takes the law into her own hands.

"She's got a temper on her, like mine. This woman here does not need to tote pistols. She does not need to be around pistols."

Parkhurst said Weeks followed her and cornered her on a dead-end street, in the 4600 block of Southwest 66th Avenue in Davie. She said she was afraid for her life, knowing what Weeks had done to a woman he was convicted of raping in 1996 in Walton County, near Tallahassee.

"I'm going to be financially exhausted from this. My life and freedom are at stake. After all I've done for this community, for me to be at this point makes me think the world must have gone upside down," Parkhurst said.

The confrontation with Weeks and discussions on online forums have made Parkhurst anxious about her safety. She's even had second thoughts about continuing her long-time activism.

Her attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, said he wants the State Attorney's Office to downgrade the felony charges because Parkhurst was defending herself.

"She's a modern-day Annie Oakley," Schwartzreich said. "But she is not a vigilante. She was scared this individual was following her."

Her predicament, another activist said, is a lesson to others who do neighborhood notifications.

"It's an eye-opener," said Judy Cornett, founder of Safety Zone Advocacy Inc., a nonprofit group that aims to protect children and help victims. "You don't want to agitate them [sex offenders]. I think that it probably would have been more in her interest to call 911 and let the police handle it. But sometimes when we panic, we make mistakes."

Parkhurst wants people to understand she does not just "fly off the wall." An avid target shooter who practices clay shooting at least once a week, she applies the same focus to finding information about violent sex offenders.

A dentist's clinical coordinator, she spends time and her own money crusading for stricter penalties to protect women and children from violent offenders.

Parkhurst said she has been motivated by high-profile cases like those involving Megan Kanka, of New Jersey,, Jimmy Ryce, of Homestead, and others. She is passionate about speaking at town council meetings, attending protests, joining online forums and submitting letters to newspapers.

She sifts through Department of Corrections records and newspaper crime reports to determine who the most violent offenders are. Then she hands out fliers in her neighborhood. She reviewed the case of Weeks, who had bruised and severely battered the Walton County woman during a six-hour sexual attack in September 1995, according to criminal records and published reports. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, served nine and was released in 2005, corrections department records show.

There are about 52,000 sex offenders and predators in Florida. Of those, 1,263 are in Broward County, according to FDLE's sex offender registry. Forty-one sex offenders and predators, or about 5 per 10,000 residents, lived in Davie as of June.

"What Valerie is doing is heroic," Cornett said. "People should applaud her for going out to the community to do what she's doing." ..more.. by Macollvie Jean-Fran├žois | South Florida Sun-Sentinel



Davie activist cleared for pointing gun at sex offender

1-23-2008 Florida:

Prosecutors won't file charges against an activist (Valerie Parkhurst pictured right) accused of threatening to kill a registered sex offender, saying she acted in self-defense, according to documents released Tuesday.

Valerie Parkhurst, 52, faced felony charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and carrying concealed weapons after she pointed two guns at Dale Weeks, 49, in Davie on Dec. 1. Parkhurst and her attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, met with prosecutors in early January, and the State Attorney's Office decided Friday not to file formal charges.

"The defendant appears to have acted in self-defense having knowledge of Weeks' prior violent sexual offender conviction," Assistant State Attorney Jules R. Cohn wrote in a memo. He added there would be "no likelihood of conviction."

Weeks said the decision is biased.
"The bottom line is they're taking her side of the case," Weeks said. "They're sending a message that allows somebody to break the law and point or fire a pistol at anybody. It's vigilante-style law."

Police had said Parkhurst threatened to kill Weeks and his girlfriend, Maria Rodriguez, when the couple drove onto a street where Parkhurst was handing out sex offender warning fliers. The street was a couple of miles from Weeks' home, where Parkhurst had passed out fliers about him earlier and had words with Rodriguez.

During the confrontation in the 4600 block of Southwest 66th Avenue, a dead-end street, Parkhurst said she thought the couple was following her and asked them to back up. The couple, who told police they were heading to a store and made a wrong turn, said they had trouble backing up.
Parkhurst said she became scared for her life and took a pistol out of her truck to scare them off. Another heated exchange followed, and when Parkhurst retrieved a shotgun, Weeks called police.

In his memo, Cohn said Parkhurst's actions were legally acceptable under the Castle Doctrine, which allows people to protect their homes, and themselves in public places, if they feel threatened with death or bodily harm.
Weeks' and Rodriguez's credibility is also weak, the memo said. He is a felon and she has outstanding warrants for a pending worthless-checks case in Jacksonville.
Ron Ishoy, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office, said the concealed weapons charge was dropped because "it appears the defendant's firearm was securely encased in a holster before it was removed for purposes of self-defense."

Possessing a concealed weapon without a license is lawful if the item is not readily accessible for immediate use, Ishoy said.

"We're very pleased with the State Attorney's resolution of the case," Schwartzreich said.

Parkhurst applied for and is enrolled in classes to qualify for a concealed weapons permit.

"I'm up in arms over this," Weeks said. "They're allowing her to get a permit, after the fact. I find that very upsetting." ..more.. by Macollvie Jean-Fran├žois | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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