Living by a registered sex offender in Southwest

Three area neighborhoods know — or don’t know — what it’s like

The 3100 block of Pleasant Avenue is one of Southwest’s worn edges. The two-story wooden houses need a coat of paint and some time sprucing up the lawns. Some stretches of sidewalk need to have a snow shovel scraped along them, too.

The small, paved driveway behind one house — a tidy, typically bleak place — is getting a methodical cleaning on a weekday afternoon. Bill is shoveling the snow slowly, and carefully. He’s been out of prison for about six months, on Intense Supervised Release for sex crimes he committed.

A few houses down the block, little kids are playing inside. They’re warm and safe with their mothers. The women know that Bill is only a stone’s throw away, though they’re unaware that another sex offender they’ve seen come and go from the same house was convicted of molesting a 7-year-old girl as well as raping a woman.

It’s another Pleasant Avenue Thursday — convicted and released sex offenders live here among the recent immigrants and lifelong residents.

Assessing risk Level III offenders are those convicted of sex crimes such as child molestation or rape, whom a group of psychologists, criminal justice professionals and victims’ advocates have judged most likely to reoffend. The most notorious Level III offender is Alfonso Rodriguez, the man charged with kidnapping 22-year-old Minnesotan Dru Sjodin from a North Dakota mall in late November.

Since Sjodin’s story splashed across TVs and newspapers, the Minneapolis Police Department’s Sexual Offender Community Notification Coordinator, Jon Hinchliff, has been inundated with calls. "Thirty to 40 calls a day," he estimated, from people especially eager to know if they’re living near a Level III offender.

Few Southwest residents do. Of the 56 Level III offenders who live in Minneapolis, five live in Southwest neighborhoods: one in Kingfield, two each in Whittier and Lyndale (see sidebar).

According to a law enforcement source, the offender who lives in Lyndale with Bill – 27-year-old Lionel Tohannie Yazzie – had a risk-to-reoffend score more than four times higher than Rodriguez.

Bill talks On Pleasant Avenue, Bill refused to give his real name, but revealed that he’s Level II sex offender. Like Level III offenders, Level II criminals are guilty of rape or molestation but are considered less likely to reoffend.

According to the Minnesota Department of Correction’s 1999 report, "Sex Offender Treatment and Recidivism," 20 percent of those who never entered a sex-offense treatment program were arrested later for another sex crime; 14 percent of those who completed the program were subsequently arrested for a sex crime.

Bill would not discuss his specific incidents, but through the Department of Corrections Web site and information he revealed, the Journal found that the 55-year-old has been convicted of sexually assaulting at least one girl under the age of 13.

As Bill held his shovel and paused to talk on a cold afternoon, he seemed a quiet, thoughtful man; at times, truly repentant for what he’d done and determined to never do anything again that would land him behind bars.

Hinchliff isn’t easily swayed by claims of repentance. He says offenders often practice their stories of how they’ve changed and why they’re no longer a danger to others. It’s part of their efforts to be released from prison, he said.

Yet Bill has his story to tell.

"I have God with me," he said, speaking in measured tones that hung in the cold air. "It’s not just believing, it’s the lifestyle you live. My desire is to serve the Lord and that’s what I want to do…it’s a terrible thing that I did. I can surely try to do what’s right and to make my life right now."

Bill is a Seventh Day Adventist who attends a church not far from his house. Whenever he goes to church, or anywhere else for that matter, he has to call his parole officer and get permission to leave home. He must tell the officer how long he’ll be gone and where he’ll be, so that the officer can check on his whereabouts at any time of the day or night.

"Personally, I don’t like the fact that I have to call in all the time and they can come drop in at any time," he said.

Bill said he thinks he’s as unlikely to commit crimes with or without state intervention in his life. "I’m not going back to doing any of that," he said, without glancing at the school bus rolling slowly down the snowbound alley behind his house. "I was sick in the head to do what I did. I had to be.

"I don’t have no desires to do those things. When thoughts do come to mind, you’ve got to rebuke ’em in the name of Jesus," he said. "That’s how I keep any of those desires away."

An edge in his voice hardens as he talks about the unfair way he’s being treated.

"They’ve got murderers out there, and they’re not treated like this," he said of his Intense Supervised Release conditions. "Why not?

"Murderers can kill children, too, just as well as adults."

A few houses away Down the street, the two women with their children aren’t much interested in talking about Bill or the roommate they identify as Yazzie, the Level III rapist whose victim pool includes young girls and adult females.

The women’s first language is Spanish, though in halting English they make it clear that they know of Yazzie and that they don’t want to be identified by name or address. When shown a picture of Richard Carpenter, the other Level III sex offender registered on the block, they say they haven’t seen him around.

No wonder. According to a law enforcement source, Carpenter was arrested three months ago for failure to maintain a registered address.

Another few houses away on Pleasant, an 18-year-old man stands outside the house where he lives with his father and four brothers. He’s been in Minneapolis for a year, having moved here from Mexico. He doesn’t speak English well, and he doesn’t want his name used. He hadn’t heard that there are sex offenders living on his block.

"I’m okay," he said when asked if he was comfortable knowing about the men convicted of sex crimes living a few doors away.