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Big Man, one of the men sent to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway because of a county ordinance prohibiting sex offenders from living in most of Miami-Dade -- “Sex Offenders Set up Camp,” – has been allowed to return home with his wife in Pompano Beach. His case, it turns out, was different from the rest of the bridge-dwellers. For one thing, Big Man’s sexual assault case is twenty-three years old and he isn’t listed on any state registry as a sex offender. For another, his terms of supervision had been set not by the Department of Corrections but by the Parole Commission. So, having completed a two-month parole, he was allowed to leave the bridge.
“I’m out, I’m home,” he told New Times over the phone. He says the adjustment back to normal life – Big Man had been sent to the bridge after three years in prison – has been tricky. “Man, let me tell you something – them dudes when they come up out of there, they have to shake that bridge mentality,” he said. “That bridge changes who you are. It aint no good, man, it aint no good.”
Big Man has kept in touch with some of the men by cell phone; he says he plans to go under the bridge on Christmas Eve with “food and stuff” – “Most definitely I’m happy to be out,” he added. “But I still have love for the guys.”
When asked why a man not listed as a sex offender should be sent under the Julia Tuttle to live with registered sex offenders, the Florida Department of Corrections says that in Big Man’s case, the Florida Parole Commission set all the guidelines of supervision. The Parole Commission, however, denies that it ever instructed anyone to send Big Man under a bridge, and that Big Man’s placement was entirely the decision of the DoC. For his part, Big Man says that he plans to sue both. -- Isaiah Thompson
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
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SAN ANTONIO — Three San Antonio police officers were arrested, accused of sexually assaulting two women while on duty in separate incidents, authorities said Thursday.
Officers Michael Anthony Munoz and Victor Hugo Gonzalez were arrested and accused of paying an 18-year-old woman to perform oral sex on them in June. Munoz was charged with official oppression, while Gonzalez was charged with official oppression, promoting prostitution and sexual assault.
In a separate incident last month, Officer Raymond Ramos was accused of sexually assaulting a 28-year-old woman. He was also charged with official oppression and violating the woman's civil rights.
Police Chief William McManus called a news conference Thursday morning and said the officers would be given administrative duty, away from the public.
Their actions "leave me scratching my head. What the heck were these officers thinking?" he said.
District Attorney Susan Reed said she hopes to take the case to a grand jury next month.
All three officers worked out of a southside substation on the same shift, so McManus said there would be further investigation into how the alleged incidents could have taken place.
A message left with the San Antonio Police Officers' Association legal section on Thursday evening was not immediately returned.
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WASHINGTON -- A D.C. police officer arrested on child sex charges will not be able to get out on bond.
Kenneth Longerbeam appeared in court Thursday, where he waived a preliminary hearing.
Longerbeam is charged with using text messaging to try to arrange sex with a 14-year-old boy.
He actually was talking to a cooperating witness.
Federal agents arrested Longerbeam Wednesday morning when he was on his way to meet the person he thought was the teen.
He is being held pending further court action in February.
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A former Jonesboro school resource officer has been indicted on child molestation charges in connection with allegations made in 2003.
Kenneth Jerome Alexander, 45, was fired from his job March 2, 2004, when the allegations surfaced. A Clayton County grand jury indicted him last week.
Alexander was a resource officer at Jonesboro Middle School for six days when he was fired, although he had been at the Jonesboro Police Department for three years.
The allegations involve two underage girls. Alexander was indicted on four counts of child molestation, two of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one of violation of the oath of office.
The grand jury did not indict on a rape allegation made against Alexander in 2004.
Alexander, who remains free on bond, is being represented by criminal defense attorney Al Dixon, who did not return a phone call Thursday asking for comment on the indictment.
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A former Sussex County sheriff's officer, sentenced in 2002 to 13 years in prison for sexually assaulting two girls, pleaded guilty today to having also molested a boy during the same period.
Shayne Ogden, 45, formerly of Byram, now faces an additional 7 1/2 years in prison on the new charge. He pleaded guilty today in Superior Court in Newton via a video teleconference from the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Woodbridge, where he is currently incarcerated.
In August, Ogden was indicted in the second case on charges of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a boy younger than 13.
Under a plea agreement, Ogden pleaded guilty to sex assault of the boy on numerous occasions between Dec. 26, 1998, and Dec. 31, 2000, in Byram. The other two charges are to be dismissed at sentencing on Jan. 18. The deal calls for a sentence of 7 1/2 years, with three years of parole ineligibility. The sentence will run consecutively with the 13-year sentence.
Prior to his 2001 arrest in the original case, Ogden had been a 16-year veteran of the sheriff's department, where his latest duties included being a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) outreach officer to local schools. His crimes were unrelated to his job, authorities have said.
In 2002, he admitted he began molesting a girl when she was 10, in December 1998, and continued until she was 12. He also admitted fondling a 12-year-old girl, in March 2001, in his home. Charges he had sex with another child, from the time she was 7 until she was 13, were dismissed as part of his plea deal in that first case.
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Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr. today withdrew from the investigation into the alleged sexual assault of a university student by members of the New Jersey State Police, after an interview with The Star-Ledger in which he described the case as "a nightmare."
Attorney General Anne Milgram said Bocchini asked her office to take over the probe, following what she called Bocchini's "inappropriate public comments" in an interview published in today's Star-Ledger. In the interview, Bocchini called the complex case "a nightmare" and said he did not know how it would play out.
He said it is a "textbook" example of a nettlesome case, with multiple accounts, the presence of alcohol, the lack of tapes or pictures that could verify statements, and the fact that medical evidence could, in the end, be no help in determining anything other than adults may have had sex.
"Oh, this would be great for television," Bocchini said in the interview. "But in real life, you're dealing with issues of law that need to be proven and we have this investigation that's still going forward. And we don't know where it's going to go."
Milgram assigned the investigation to Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan's office. The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office had been overseeing the case, in which a 25-year-old Rider University student alleged she was assaulted by one or more troopers Dec. 7 after she and a friend accompanied seven of them home from a Trenton nightclub to a trooper's home in Ewing Township.
Seven troopers -- including two detectives, one sergeant and another who teaches recruits at the academy -- were suspended with pay. They deny that any non-consensual activity took place. No charges have been filed.
"I agree with Prosecutor Bocchini that his public statements concerning an ongoing investigation into an alleged sexual offense ... were inappropriate, and that in the best interest of the case, it should be transferred,'' Milgram said in a statement this evening.
Milgram also released a letter from Bocchini, dated today, saying that "upon further reflection" his statements to the newspaper were "inappropriate."
"Those statements could very well create a public perception that my office should not handle this investigation," the prosecutor wrote. "While I have the utmost confidence in the entire staff of the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office and their ability to fairly and thoroughly investigate this matter, I believe that in the best interest of this ongoing investigation that supersession is appropriate."
Previous Star-Ledger coverage:
- Code of conduct for troopers
- Accused troopers go on offensive
- Accused troopers' spokesman says assault claim is false
- 5 troopers accused in attack are veterans
- 7 troopers suspended amid sexual assault claim
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MIDDLETOWN -- A former Middletown police officer was indicted on charges that he sexually solicited a teenage girl.
Christopher Winters, 30, was charged with one count of importuning. He resigned from the force in October during an on going criminal investigation.
Investigators said he allegedly sent inappropriate text messages to a 15-year-old girl.
Winters is scheduled to be in court on Friday.
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Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series on the most prominent murder cases in the News Journal's 75-year history. The cases are listed in chronological order. This story was originally published on Jan. 14, 2004.
MANSFIELD -- The Ohio Parole Board on Tuesday unanimously voted to end Charles Oswalt's time in prison for the death of Margie Coffey, saying he has served a significant amount of his sentence and should be released about March 15.
Oswalt served almost 16 years of a 10- to 25-year sentence after being convicted of voluntary manslaughter and abuse of a corpse and sent to prison July 1, 1988.
He maintains his innocence in the killing.
Trial testimony pinned the motive on a paternity suit over a son, Brandon, whom Coffey claimed was fathered by Oswalt.
"I did not kill Marjorie Coffey, I do not know who did and I will not stop until I have cleared my name," Oswalt said in a letter received by the News Journal. "I can assure you I will continue the fight."
Upon hearing the decision, Oswalt's wife, Linda, whom he married in 1967, embraced family members and shed tears of joy.
"She is as assured of my innocence as I am," Oswalt said during a November interview. "What can you say? I was with her at the time they were saying I was someplace else disposing of a body. It's tough to admit to someone you've been married to that long that you had been an adulterer ... and to have them stay by you is just a pretty amazing thing."
In all, 18 members of Oswalt's family attended Tuesday's hearing.
"He had exceeded the amount of time he should have served with this," said Michelle Stapleton, Oswalt's niece, who spoke on his behalf during the parole hearing. "All he wants to do is come home, live a quiet life, get a job and be with his grandchildren and his children."
Two tiny carpet fibers found on Margie Coffey's body were the crucial pieces of evidence for the prosecution.
"The biggest part of the case was the analysis of the fiber," said Mansfield Crime Lab Director Anthony J. Tambasco. "A heads-up goes to Capt. Joe Daugherty (of the Richland County Sheriff's Department) for preserving and maintaining it or we never would have had the evidence for trial."
Richland County Assistant Prosecutor Bambi Couch-Page said conditions of Oswalt's parole will be that he complete re-entry court and does not contact Coffey's family or a Columbus woman who testified at his trial that he confessed to her that he killed Coffey.
Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese said Oswalt will be in the program for at least a year and will be electronically monitored and must follow standard conditions such as abiding by a curfew, maintaining employment and abstaining from drugs and alcohol.
DeWeese said other conditions could be added if Oswalt needs help in any area.
"I don't think he's as bad off as some of the people we usually get," DeWeese said. "He was a police officer at one point, so I doubt he has some of the educational deficiencies or substance-abuse problems that we often see."
JoeEllen Culp, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said Oswalt will be released from parole after a year provided he completes re-entry court.
Coffey's family and Richland County prosecutors were disappointed with the decision. Her brother, Tim Remy, and daughter, Angela Remy, pleaded with the board to keep Oswalt in prison, citing their fear of him and the fact that he has not admitted to the crime.
"How can you be rehabilitated if you have not admitted to your wrongs?" Angela Remy asked the board. "There is no doubt in our mind that when he gets out, he's going to be a menace to society. He is going to put fear into countless people."
Richland County Prosecutor James J. Mayer Jr. had opposed Oswalt's release.
"He took the life of his former girlfriend by strangling her to death," Mayer wrote. "He intentionally complicated the investigation by disposing of his victim's body in a deserted area in the middle of winter. He was a law-enforcement official when he committed these serious crimes (and) he has never admitted his crimes nor shown any remorse whatsoever."
While sympathizing with the victim's family, Mansfield police Chief Phil Messer said the justice system has done its job.
"Lt. Oswalt has certainly paid for what he has done and at some point, regardless of what status you've held, its time to parole Charles Oswalt," Messer said. "I knew Oswalt. He was my sergeant and then he was my lieutenant."
Oswalt said he is looking forward to returning to his Lexington home and spending time with his family, including his three children and his grandchildren.
He obtained a bachelor's degree in general psychology and business management through Ashland University while in prison but said he has no immediate plans after his release.
"It's been so long since I've been in the work force," he said. "I do plan on becoming a productive member of society again. I'm not just going to go out there and do nothing."
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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."