BELOIT - Outrage and concern.
Urged on by the Beloit Police Department to contact state and legal officials related to the possible placement of a Douglas County sex offender in Beloit, residents came out strongly in opposition of the plan at a community meeting Wednesday evening.
The department hosted the listening session at the Beloit Historical Society to brief the community on the possible placement of Kenneth R. Cairns, 57, at a state-operated home for sex offenders at 2219 Euclid Avenue.
The home's next door neighbor, Kay Shepherd, said she was concerned for the safety of her 15-year-old daughter and 9-year-old grandson who live at the adjacent home. Shepherd's home at 2221 Euclid shares a driveway with the placement residence, with no barrier in between.
"I'm always concerned about my kids," Shepherd said. "... I am going to do everything I can to stop it because he doesn't need to be there. It's not fair to my kids and it's not fair to us."
The placement isn't finalized though, with Douglas County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Thimm set to make a final ruling on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) placement recommendation in March or April, according to Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski.
Cairns has been convicted of multiple sexual assault-related crimes, all against young boys ages 13 and younger, according to records obtained by the Beloit Daily News.
His convictions range from 1979 to 1991, with Zibolski and residents taking issue with his ability to avoid the label of "serious child sex offender."
Cairns was convicted in November 1979 of two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct related to the assault of a 9-year-old and 10-year-old boy; convicted in July 1980 of two counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes related to the assault of boys aged 9 and 12; convicted in July 1981 of second-degree sexual assault and enticing a child for immoral purposes of a 13-year-old boy; convicted in August 1984 of two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy; and convicted in September 1991 of second degree sexual assault of a child and child enticement of a 13-year-old boy, according to Wisconsin Department of Corrections records.
Cairns' possible placement would mark the second state registered sexually abusive man to move into the Euclid home since November, when LaCrosse County sex offender Steven M. Schuelke was placed in the home after a lengthy DHS decision. Schuelke was convicted for crimes in 1993, 2003 and 2006 for forcing himself on multiple victims, including two under the age of 16, court records show.
Although the home on Euclid Avenue is not within 1,500 feet of a school, child care facility, public park, place of worship or youth center, the home is directly next to a home where minors lives.
State law says registered sex offenders cannot live within 1,500 feet of a home named the primary residence of a child, but the clause only applies to those registered as a "serious child sex offender." And that distinction is causing consternation in Beloit.
Zibolski said the department was closely monitoring Wisconsin Senate Bill 446, a bill that would prevent the placement of sex offenders in counties other than where they were convicted. All of Beloit's state delegation support the legislation, officials said. The bill could be voted on and signed by Gov. Scott Walker ahead of the hearing, Zibolski speculated.
"This has to be dealt with," Zibolski said. "We are trying to inform the community and we hope residents will help us support these changes while also reaching out to Douglas County on this important issue."
Cairns and Schuelke are not listed as serious child sex offenders due only to the fact the pair were granted lesser charges related to their unrelated yet graphic assaults.
Shepherd said living next door to the home has affected her daughter.
"Most parents won't let their kids come over because they live next to me," Shepherd said. "How does that affect my daughter's social life? She's a teenager. Come on. Teenager. They need a social life."
The city is currently reviewing its legal options related to the possible placement, Zibolski said, with the possibility of seeking an injunction in Rock County Circuit Court, he added.
In correspondence with DHS, the city notified DHS that the home could not be used for placement and that the offenders "do not constitute as a family" for the single family residential unit.
The city could send citations to Ladoga Property Management Group LLC, the property owner contracted with DHS to place individuals at the home, on a daily basis notifying them of the potential zoning violation.
No official action has been taken.
Beloit City Council member Mark Preuschl, who attended the meeting, said he would support a resolution by the council opposing the placement, but no such resolution has been drafted or discussed, he noted.
For more information on the issue, visit beloitwi.gov or the Beloit Police Department Facebook page.