Downtown sex offender notification: a big job with a few gaps

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April 4, 2005 // UPDATED 1:53 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Jeremy Stratton
Jeremy Stratton

A trio of Level Three sex offenders have become new Downtown residents in the past month. Two of the three men are under no supervision, despite a history of failing to comply with the requirements of prior releases, and both of those men reside just blocks from a Downtown daycare center and an elementary school.

Level Three sex offenders are considered to be at the highest risk to reoffend. Ideally, the Minneapolis Police and its network of contacts get notification to the community. For example, there is a community meeting Tuesday, April 5, about a Level Three offender now living in the 800 block of Hennepin Ave. S.

Recently, though, the notification process was not without some flaws.

The offenders

According to the state Department of Corrections, Downtown is home to seven Level Three offenders, five in Elliot Park.

Emmett Maurice Nelson is one of them. On Tuesday, March 29, police held a community notification meeting to alert the public that Nelson, released from prison on Feb. 9, had moved to the 1500 block of Park Avenue March 16. Around 1,000 flyers were distributed in Elliot Park.

In July 2003, Nelson had forced a 16-year-old homeless girl to have sex with him at knifepoint.

Nelson is under "intense supervision" by a Hennepin County Supervision Agent, who will do random check-ins as often as six or seven times a week for a year.

According to Minneapolis Police Sex Offender Notification Coordinator Jon Hinchliff, offenders under intense supervision have a recidivism rate of just 1 percent.

That rate rises when supervision ends. State Department of Corrections Spokesperson Liz Bogut said a third of sex offenders at all levels reoffend. Although that rate is lower than that for all offenses statewide, Minneapolis alone houses 2,300 sex offenders at all levels.

Nathaniel Roby was released March 5 and is living on the 1000 block of Currie Avenue without supervision. Roby offended twice, in 1988 and again in 1993, both times involving the fondling and penetration of females aged 8-13, by use of force. In August 2003, he was sent back to prison for failing to register as a sex offender.

The Tuesday, April 5 meeting regards John Joseph Kimball. Kimball, who was released March 8, is also without supervision.

Six years ago, Kimball, now 70, was sentenced to 21 months in prison for fondling an 8-year-old girl he encountered in a Minneapolis park. Kimball was released to supervision less than a year later but went back to prison at least four times for failure to comply with his release terms. Among Kimball's problems were a failure to report to his agent and possession of intoxicating materials.

Ironically, Kimball's inability to stay out of prison is why he's unsupervised now. Only those paroled to the community can be supervised; if a sex offender has served a full sentence, all he or she has to do is register their address with the state annually, and report their new address if they move, for at least 10 years.

Because they stayed in prison full term, Kimball and Roby are "free to go wherever [they] want," Hinchliff said.

Convicted sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., accused in the high-profile 2003 killing of 18-year-old Dru Sjodin, was unsupervised since he had completed his full 23-year sentence six months earlier.

Hinchliff said that the MPD does compliance checks "to stop by and see if [an offender] is there." However, with 2,300 cases currently open, he said he couldn't possibly check in on all of the offenders in the course of a year.

Notification not without problems

For Level Three sex offenders, Minnesota statutes state that local law enforcement agencies shall notify victims and witnesses of previous offenses, organizations such as schools and day-care centers, and individuals who might be at risk.

Corrections' Bogut said local law enforcement must provide notification of Level Three offenders but not necessarily through a community meeting.

In Roby's case, Hinchliff said that for the first time in his four years on the job, he did not schedule a meeting because the offender's Currie Avenue address is in a "warehouse area" not near a "primary residential area."

Hinchliff said that state guidelines set a three-block radius for notification. In Roby's case, an information sheet was distributed to addresses within that radius.

Just across the street from that area, however, are Noah's Ark Childcare Development Center, 1021 Hennepin Ave. S.; and the Downtown Interdistrict School, 10 S. 10th St., which serves kindergarteners through 12th graders.

Hinchliff said he sent notice to the Minneapolis Public Schools, which notifies schools.

An official of the Greater Minneapolis Daycare Association said that they provide Hinchliff with a list of city daycares, including Noah's Ark.

Alise Atiq, director of Noah's Ark, said she had heard about Kimball's April 5 meeting but was not aware that Roby lived nearby.

Told of Atiq's comment, Hinchliff personally dropped off information sheets at the daycare and the school.

Interdistrict School officials said the Minneapolis Public Schools had notified them about Roby.

One school staff member was concerned that Kimball had been living Downtown for nearly a month before the April 5 notification meeting; fliers had only gone out the last week in March. (At Noah's Ark, Atiq said she had received notice before then.)

The state statute governing notification states that local law enforcement "make a good faith effort" to disclose information within 14 days of receiving it from the Corrections Department. Although Roby's fliers were distributed within that time frame, Hinchliff said setting up meetings as in Kimball's case can take longer - it takes time to reserve space, print and distribute fliers, and give people a few days to see the information.

After all that in Elliot Park, the March 29 meeting on Nelson drew just 17 people.

And there are always more meetings to schedule for Minneapolis's sole sex-offender-notification cop.

"We could use 20 more people," Hinchliff said.