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System cloaks young sex offenders Tyler Kimble, 17, second from left, appears at his hearing on being certified as an adult for sex crimes. He is one of two youths so designated in the last six years.
Tyler Kimble, 17, second from left, appears at his hearing on being certified as an adult for sex crimes. He is one of two youths so designated in the last six years.
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Published: Sunday, 7/1/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

System cloaks young sex offenders

Lucas County sends youths back to schools

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Editor's Note: This version corrects the spelling of Lori Olender's name.

The Lucas County juvenile system doesn't want anything more to do with Tyler Kimble.

The 17-year-old -- who is accused of raping a 9-year-old girl after already having been convicted in 2006 of sexual contact with a 5-year-old boy -- is just one of two juveniles certified as adults in Lucas County for sex crimes during at least the last six years.

Authorities dedicated to rehabilitating juvenile sex offenders in Lucas County stress that an exhaustive attempt was made with Kimble and that he is the exception, not the norm.

Lori Olender, an assistant county prosecutor, said crimes involving juvenile sex offenders are not common and usually don't rise to the level of the Kimble case, but at the same time, they can be difficult to prosecute for a variety of reasons.

"It is not his first sexual offense, which is one of the main reasons we are looking to certify this young man," Ms. Olender said. "He has already completed our sex offender treatment program, and we have a very comprehensive sex offender treatment program that can be all the way up through 24 months … This is one we are worried the juvenile system cannot take care of and he needs to be taken out of society."

Other youths who successfully complete the county's program can be reintegrated into schools, and parents of their classmates cannot be told by the school system about the sexual crimes.

Last year, 47 juvenile offender sex crimes were filed, of which 22 were rape. In 2010, there were 61 charges, of which there were 18 rape and 15 were gross sexual imposition offenses.

The numbers represent offenses alleged, not the number of youths charged; a single juvenile may face multiple charges.

In the past five years in Lucas County, the highest number of juvenile sex charges filed was in 2007, with 89, including 42 rape charges.

Officials for Toledo Public Schools and Washington Local Schools, the largest districts in Toledo, know some of their students have gone through the Lucas County juvenile sex offender treatment program but have not been asked by parents to identify them. The emphasis instead has always been on the location of adult sex offenders and convicted pedophiles.

Brian Murphy, TPS assistant superintendent of K-12 education, said the district is notified whenever a student is involved in a crime -- even outside its school buildings.

"Anytime it is a sex-offender situation, that information is given to us by the youth juvenile sex offender treatment program," he said. "There is a provision in the Ohio Revised Code that the superintendent has the right to protect the rights of the offender and the victim as well."

Mr. Murphy said he's confident the county wouldn't return a child to school if the child were a danger to other students.

Kimble was arraigned June 19 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, he pleaded not guilty, and is being held on a $75,000 bond. He went through the county's youth sex offender treatment program and was reintegrated into school, but authorities acknowledged it didn't work for him. He attended Garfield and Navarre elementary schools before going in 2008 to the district's Mayfair School at the former Westfield Elementary building. That was two years after his first conviction. Mayfair is an alternative program for troubled students. The district would not confirm the dates he attended each school.

His mother, Mary Abrell, declined to comment.

No notification

Nancy Brenton, director of human resources for Washington Local, cited the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as the reason parents couldn't be told about a child's sexual crimes. "I would think that sex-offender information is not something that a school district determines but that the courts and police determine if it would be released," Ms. Brenton said.

"What we used to do is some kind of a service and they would provide reports back to the district on any juvenile offender we had and what happened," she said. "That service was part of a budget cut a few years ago and we haven't gotten that for a number of years."

Bill Weis, long-term director of probation for the Lucas County juvenile sex offender treatment program, said youths who go through the program have extremely low recidivism rates -- unlike adult sexual predators.

Between 4 percent and 6 percent will reoffend, which is below the national average, he said. About 20 percent will commit other nonviolent criminal acts after the treatment.

"Adult sex offending and juvenile sex offending are two different things," Mr. Weis said. "These juveniles don't grow up to be adult sex offenders."

Phil Rich, author of Understanding, Assessing and Rehabilitating Juvenile Sexual Offenders, said his research and work with juvenile sex offenders backs up statistics that show a much lower recidivism rate for youths than for adults. But he said it appears to be higher than the average in Lucas County.

"Somewhere between 10 and 5 percent juvenile sex offenders after treatment reoffend," Mr. Rich said. "Many studies come up with lower numbers, but that means something like 80 to 90 percent do not reoffend. Many more continue to get in other forms of trouble, nonsexually."

Tracking danger

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, named for the slain 6-year-old son of John Walsh, the host of TV's America's Most Wanted, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. It established a federal Internet registry that allows law enforcement and the public to more effectively track convicted sex offenders -- including juveniles 14 and older who engage in genital, anal, or oral-genital contact with children under the age of 12.

Before that, some states excluded adolescents from community-notification laws.

"Ohio is the first state to be in compliance with the Adam Walsh Act and there were supposed to be federal funds that came along with that," Mr. Weis said.

Part of the challenge in the juvenile court is distinguishing between criminal sexual behavior and what is deemed normal consensual teenage curiosity, he said.

But at the same time, authorities know juvenile sexual offenses are a serious problem. Juveniles account for about one-quarter of the sex offenses in the United States.

A 15-year-old boy who attended Toledo's Harvard Elementary is being held in the Juvenile Justice Center awaiting sentencing for raping another child.

Ms. Olender is barred from discussing juvenile offenders and victims at length but anecdotally tells about victims as young as 3.

"Usually it is interfamily, as in a brother and a stepsister, when two adults move in together and they each have a kid," she said. "You're usually dealing with -- the average age [of the victim] I would say is 9 or 10, but you get as young as 3 and 4 years old all the way up to 15 to 16 years old."

Every child under the age of 10 in Ohio is considered not competent, so obtaining convictions in cases involving 6 or 7-year-olds is difficult.

"Even in the age of 'stranger danger' and all that, because these are not strangers, kids don't tell," Ms. Olender said. "A lot of the time they don't want to get the sibling in trouble or they are worried they will get in trouble themselves, and so if you don't have a competent witness, even juvenile offenders are smart enough not to do this in front of other witnesses, and because they don't tell, you are not going to get DNA."

Many of the cases involve a parent or caretaker of both the victim and defendant, she added.

"It is a very difficult situation and you get the gamut of, 'I don't want this kid ever in my house again,' to, 'I don't know why she told because we should have dealt with this as a family.' "

Therapy programs

Ken Miller, clinical director at Harbor Youth & Family Services, which operates the Lucas County treatment program, said sex-offender therapy for juveniles was a new field in the 1980s. Now, parents are a crucial part of the process that favors rehabilitation instead of incarceration.

"The program really reinforces that the community is going to be safer and we are not going to just go through the motions and we are not going to just push them through," Mr. Miller said. "A lot of them suffer from an impulsive disorder. Their cognitive functioning hasn't matured and they act impulsively upon their urges on what is a seeming unimportant decision and they kind of go down a subtle pathway telling themselves, 'That little girl won't mind if I touch here,' and they have all these thinking errors."

He also said it's a myth that the majority of offenders were abused themselves.

"There are some who may have had some prior abuse but most of them just act impulsively," Mr. Miller said. "The peer group is very influential and I am shocked with all the kids getting involved in sexting and even porn."

In 2007, Juvenile Court entered into a partnership with Harbor, a community-based mental health organization, to provide the outpatient treatment to juvenile sexual offenders and their families.

Since then, 161 youths have gone through the program.

"This is such hard work," Mr. Miller said. "We really put our heart and soul into this."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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