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Richland Center woman starts petition to prevent sex offender from moving in next door

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RICHLAND CENTER (WKOW) -- A Richland County mother was in for a shock when she learned a registered sex offender with a history of violent convictions would be moving in next door in a matter of days. In response, she called the Department of Corrections, garnered community opposition, and now she said she's prepared to fight for her home.

When she moved just outside of town, Jamie Shannon hoped she would find a safe home for her three children.

"That's one of the reasons we moved to the country, security and no neighbors," she said.

Then Shannon learned the long-vacant house next door would see a new tenant.

"I was notified on Tuesday of last week by the Sheriff's Department that there was a violent registered sex offender moving in less than 100 ft. from my house," she said.

Richard Sugden, 64, has spent decades in prison for convictions related to rape and child abduction.

The Department of Corrections (D.O.C.) released him in June of 2019 to Ashland County. Now it is working to move him to Richland County, the place where he committed his offenses.

"I don't understand how a repeat sexual predator gets out and gets placed next to literally the type of people he preyed on," Shannon said.

Once Sugden is placed, he will be under Department of Health Services (DHS) supervision. The agency could not comment on his specific case but Elizabeth Goodsitt, a DHS spokeswoman, explained the state program in an email.

"The first year of supervised release is akin to house arrest and the client receives more privileges only if they demonstrate the willingness to follow supervised release rules," she said.

Goodsitt said not all sex offenders face that level of supervision once they're released.

"There are tens of thousands of convicted sex offenders living across the state," she said. "As of December 10, 2019, there are 64 people living on supervised release."

For Shannon, it's not enough.

"That doesn't make me feel safe," she said. "Being six miles from town, what's the police department's response time going to be."

In response, Shannon started a petition asking the D.O.C. to consider another home for Sugden.

"I only have 200 Facebook friends and I only expected it to go that far," she said.

Instead, in less than a week, it garnered more than 3,700 signatures. She believes that's made an impact.

The D.O.C. has delayed Sugden's placement and scheduled a conference for Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. at the Richland County Courthouse to discuss the opposition.

"[I'm just hoping to see] the community coming together and saying this isn't right," Shannon said.

She hopes many of those who signed the petition will join her on Tuesday, rallying for Sugden to find freedom somewhere else.

Otherwise, Shannon said her family will likely feel like prisoners upon his release.

"As a mom, I cannot put my kids in that position," she said. "It's really sad that we'd be forced out of our home."

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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