SHEFFIELD - _____ sees himself in his motel's clientele.
As an answer to the whisper campaign and public contempt hurled at his business, the manager posted an atypical sign out front.
"Sexual predators may rent a room from time to time. The law does not require them to notify management to rent a room at any hotel anywhere and we may be unaware of their presents (sic). This is an adult community only."
That is what greets guests at Shady Court Motel on East 12th Avenue in Sheffield. It's a series of older, white standalone units separated by sparse grass, just off Sheffield's main drag.
For years, it has been a vacuum for released sex offenders, as it is the listed address for nearly a dozen, according to the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
Colbert County authorities say 12 sex offenders live there now.
The motel's manager knew of seven.
Included in the motel's community are some arrested for sexually abusing children, raping teenagers and sodomy, according to the sex offender list.
"It's real hard for them to find a place to live," said _____, who at first refused to give his name because of the stigma associated with sex offenders. "It puts a big target on their back. They have to live somewhere, though."
He, too, knows the difficulty of starting over.
He is on the sex offender list - something revealed only after he was asked.
On Friday, _____ delved into the challenges of re-entering society after committing a sexual crime.
"It's made my life a living hell," the motel manager said. "I have worked so hard to get back up. But I can't even go to the grocery store without fear of someone coming up to me. It's on my driver's license. There's a whole lot about (the list) that's just not fair."
_____ said he has refused applicants whose crimes he believed were too violent.
"I turn them away if I can," he said. "I like to keep it to no more than five (convicted sex offenders) around here if I can."
There are more there now. And when people ask, he just points to the sign, not mentioning he is one of the "sexual predators" in the community.
He differentiates himself from others, saying he wants more rigid categories to label sex crimes - and restrictions that come with them.
He was arrested in Cullman County in 1991 for first-degree sexual abuse of a 7-year-old girl.
Now, in a way, he's a de facto law officer.
The influx of sex offenders at his motel comes with increased police attention. Colbert County Assistant Chief Deputy Mike Aday said _____ reports any problems he sees with his residents. Aday said _____' information has led to arrests in the past.
"He's one of them that doesn't give me any problems," Aday said of _____, who is among 100 sex offenders in Colbert County. "We greatly appreciate the help he gives us."
State law requires sex offenders to live at least 2,000 feet away from schools, day care centers or other havens for children. They must also stay 1,000 feet away from their victim.
Offenders also must report to authorities every six months and register when they move or change employment. If offenders move, authorities have to first make sure the new residence meets standards.
It's these rules, Aday said, that funnels so many to Shady Court. He said it's far easier to find housing in rural areas but few choose that route.
"It's a place they know they can get into right away," he said of the motel.
He added that a handful also go to a nearby motel.
Though boarding convicted sex offenders brings public scorn, it's also guaranteed business.
"It's a catch-22," he said. "These are among the most stable people we have here. They pay rent on time, but we don't want to be known as the sex-offender palace."
There isn't much sympathy for Shady Court from neighbors, with the general consensus favoring demolition.
"I hate that place," said Dolores Lansdell, who owns the house closest to the motel. "They should all burn."
Kelly Muston, who monitors sex offenders for the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office, believes stricter restrictions are needed, such as dictating distance between a sex offender's home and a bus stop, which has been included in other states' laws.
"They put themselves in that position when they committed that crime," she said, adding she couldn't say if convicted sex offenders can change their mindset, as _____ claims.
Lauderdale County has 80 sex offenders, she said; there are 45 in Franklin County, according to the sheriff's department there.
In context, that makes one sex offender for every 547 people in Colbert, 684 people in Franklin and 1,114 in Lauderdale.
Muston said denial is rampant among those she deals with.
"Some have this attitude of 'I did my time; it's over, let me move on,' " she said. "That doesn't mean it ended for the victim. That's something the victim has to live with for the rest of their life."
Meanwhile, _____ is still trying to run his business, which he admits "isn't exactly a four-star hotel."
He leads sexual addiction meetings in the parking lot and gives his number in case someone needs an intervention.
A couple of people always show at the meetings.
_____ said he hasn't been behind bars since his arrest nearly 20 years ago. He said he's proof sex offenders can change.
"It's an ongoing process," he said. "You have to be brutally honest with yourself about what you did. I'm not going to make no excuses for it. It was absolutely horrible. But luckily, I don't have those thoughts anymore."
He's now engaged. His fiance knows about his past, he said. "I'm not a monster out there trying to hurt somebody," _____ said. "I'm just trying to live and make things right with God and myself. I never want to go back to that person I was."
"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution)
© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues, All Rights Reserved