Valerie Parkhurst reminds a lot of people of perennial Looney Tunes Character Elmer Fudd. I can envision her going around saying, "Be vewwy vewwy kwiet. I'm huntin' wegistwants. huhuhuhuh!"
Sympathy for the Devils: Should Sex Offenders Have More Rights? Or None at All?
By Kyle Swenson
published: August 22, 2013
Valerie Parkhurst — AKA "The Valigator" — harasses sex offenders in hopes of driving them out of Davie.
On a blue, sun-soaked Saturday in December 2007, Valerie Parkhurst's white Suburban took the asphalt at a purposeful creep past the blocks of modest ranch homes between Griffin Road and 595. The city of Davie was still blue-collar at the core, but the edges were going. Here, you'd see an unruly lawn; there, a jaundiced house front crying out for a new coat of paint. Back when Parkhurst was a single mom in the '70s and '80s, it was all good ol' boys, pickups filling every driveway. Everyone knew everyone — or at least thought they did. That was before the sex offender registry revealed the boogeymen down the street.
|Apparently criminals in Florida can |
The same cheap real estate that lured young families had also brought the "freaks," "the sick fucks," and "the worthless examples of human DNA," as Parkhurst would call them. Rapists. Child molesters. Kiddie porn fiends.
Parkhurst had anointed herself a one-woman line of defense for the 33314 ZIP code. "I didn't choose this fight," she was fond of saying. "It chose me."
It didn't have exactly the same adrenaline kick as her usual sport, knocking through the Everglades harpooning gators. But every morning, she scrolled through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's sex offender database to see whether any criminals had been released into her neighborhood. She checked news stories about offenders striking again. In her mind, every name was a possible time bomb ticking down to the next boom. Her job was to publicize where these scumbags lived so good people could steer clear.
She pulled into the parking lot of a yellow two-story apartment complex and killed the engine. Dressed in cotton drawstring capri pants and a white T-shirt, Parkhurst, then 52, moved from car to car, slipping fliers underneath windshield wipers. They warned neighbors that Dale Weeks had been convicted of sexual battery and imprisonment in 1995 — the latest entry in a criminal career including battery and grand theft. He was such a sicko that he requested the police evidence photos of his victim's genitals.
A chunky Hispanic woman approached Parkhurst and asked what she was doing. Parkhurst spotted a husky guy with graying hair pop out from one of the apartments — Weeks. Parkhurst sensed the two were an item. "I'm just telling you," she said in her tough-gal voice, "that we want him out."
Two hours later, Parkhurst was hunting a Davie side street for another bad guy. In her rearview mirror, she noticed a Chevy Lumina riding her bumper. Weeks was riding shotgun; his girlfriend was behind the wheel.
Oh, Valerie thought, they wanna play.
The street dead-ended. The Lumina behind her, Parkhurst was trapped. She tossed the Suburban into park and hopped out.
"Are you following me?" she shouted. "Move your fucking car! You're a convicted sex offender. You'll go to jail for this shit."
"You no good fucking bitch," Weeks growled and moved from the car, Parkhurst remembers.
Her 9mm Glock was tucked on the floor, as always. She ripped it from the Velcro holster, squared up in a two-handed range stance, a trigger pull away from standing her ground.
Weeks' woman was pulling at his side. When the two retreated back to their car and inched it back, Parkhurst did the same. But the Lumina halted. The passenger door shot back open.
Oh fuck me, Parkhurst thought.
This time, she emerged from her car with a 20-gauge Remington automatic shotgun. "I've got no problem killing you," she announced.
By the time officers arrived to cuff Parkhurst for aggravated assault with a firearm and carrying a concealed gun without a license, both parties had cooled and were sitting in their vehicles.
This high-noon suburban standoff caused a minor rumble in the local media. But to a small but intense niche scattered across the country, it gave Parkhurst hero status. In online forums where they religiously gathered, vigilantes and sex offender watch groups cheered Parkhurst by her online handle, "the Valigator." She'd faced down the bad guy without blinking. "I should have put a bullet through his head," she'd say later.
But for every one of these hardliners, there was an equal and opposite force. Another group was emerging — people who dared to stand up for sex offenders, arguing that they'd done their time and paid their price to society. Yet the sex offender registry — an indignity faced by no other type of criminal — left them ostracized, sometimes unfairly and often for life. It eliminated any hope of rehabilitation or reintegration into society. The registry needed to be reformed, they argued.
Both the hardliners and the reformers say the current system of sex offender management is flawed — but they have radically different ideas about what should be changed. These opposing groups are embroiled in an intense, ugly face-off about whether the lowest of society's low should have more rights — or almost none at all.
Only 40 miles to the north of the Valigator, another suburban mom was quickly becoming a flag bearer for the opposite team.
Gail Colletta, a blond marketing executive, hadn't even had time to change out of the oversized T-shirt she wore to bed when the knock came at the door of her Boynton Beach villa in July 2009. Her husband, Julius, was in the shower. After a tense run of sleepless nights, Alex, her 21-year-old son, was finally passed out in bed. She saw a caravan of police cars. One of the neighbors must need help, she thought.
Half a dozen cops in black protective vests streamed into the house. One spat lingo at her, words like "search warrant," "IP address," "guns or ammunition." One phrase stuck out.
" 'Child pornography'?" Gail repeated. "Are you kidding me?"
From his bedroom just off the front hallway, Alex shouted: "It's on my computer!"
As his parents anxiously sat at the kitchen table, Alex was locked away with detectives in the spare bedroom. The student admitted that for the past four months, he'd been using Limewire to download music onto his Dell laptop. Over three days in late May, he'd used search terms like "4yo" to hunt out child pornography. After a few clicks, the program piled the files into his default download folder. With titles like "MafiaSex.Ru_Children_Kids_Hards_000293_ChildPorn_Collection_1_Pussy_Illegal_Preteen_Underage_Lolita_Kiddy_Child_Incest_XXX_Porno_Gay_Fuck_YOUng_Naked_Nude_Little_Girl(1).jpg," the items were already logged in the Internet Crimes Against Children database. Palm Beach County law enforcement easily tracked the content to the family's IP address. Alex was booked on 49 counts of possessing photographs of sexual performances by a child.
For the Collettas, the arrest was the latest terrible flare-up of the mental health issues Alex had been wrestling for a decade. An adoptive child growing up in Boca Raton, their boy had been a slightly geeky teacher's pet. But when Alex was 16, Gail and Julius divorced. During a six-week stretch in 2004, Alex tried to kill himself three times. The doctors diagnosed him with bipolar disorder, and Alex was handed a pharmacy shelf of medications.
The pills didn't work. Eventually, the family transferred Alex from Boca Raton High School to a tough-love-style military school in Utah. He graduated, but the manic-depressive seesawing continued.
In September 2008, Gail and Julius reunited, bought the house, and brought Alex home to live while he took biotech classes. That helped — his moons of depression had been coming less and less.
Following the arrest in July 2009, news crews were at the gate asking for interviews. Alex's mug shot — showing a handsome kid with a shaved dome and jutting ears — was plastered in the newspapers. Family members slept on his floor at night, scared he'd make good on a fourth suicide attempt.
Alex claimed the download was a one-time, sleep-deprived whim. Gail knew he was just a troubled young man, not a predator. So when the prosecution offered a deal — five years of prison, five years of probation — the family balked. They figured the judge would show mercy — maybe give him house arrest and treatment.
She hated the idea of a son stuck on the registry. The person disappeared behind the label. It was a lesson she personally learned. Between 8 and 14, Gail had been sexually abused by members of her family. She coped by refusing to let one piece of her experience — her victimization — define her. And here her son was facing a punishment that could strip him clean of everything except the fallout of a single mistake.
It seemed like a safe enough bet. A risk assessment concluded: "Available information indicates that Mr. Colletta will present minimal risk to the community." But in the end, it was naive thinking.
"We have all this evidence that there's no risk here, that this isn't a guy who's going to go out and rape a child," Gail says. "I thought they were going to send him home for a year of house arrest and send him to counseling."
On October 29, 2010, in a Palm Beach County courtroom, Alex pleaded guilty, hoping for leniency. Judge Amy Smith handed Alex ten years in prison followed by 15 years of probation — still less than the 16 to 150 years he might have faced at a jury trial. As with anyone convicted of a sex crime, the sentence came with an automatic lifetime on the sex offender registry. When the words hit Gail, she lunged at the victorious prosecutor. Julius had to hold her back. Gail fainted in the courthouse hallway.
She took to bed for the next five months. When she finally found the strength to get up, Gail began making phone calls trying to find a way to get justice for her son — who'd made a mistake, yes, but received the same punishment as a violent offender. She discovered the Florida Action Committee, a support system for families of sex offenders. Members mostly laid low; activism could cost them jobs or put them in the crosshairs of vigilantes.
But Colletta didn't have much to lose. Her family name had already been splashed across the nightly news. In July 2011, she became the group's president and began knocking on the doors of legislators.
Specifically, Colletta wanted to see more latitude in the punishment of sex offenders. Based on individual risk assessments, judges should be able to exempt low-risk offenders from the registry, she argued. Also, there needed to be more education — computer users needed more warning that a one-time download of child porn could ruin a person's life. And anyone who felt a sexual attraction to children ought to have access to therapy.
But in a tough-on-crime land like Florida, Gail's pitch was a tough sell.
"She's a sex offender diva," Parkhurst says of Colletta. "She's got her son who went down for child porn, and then now all of a sudden, she's an expert on sex offender crime? What school did she go to other than the raid on her house?"
Parkhurst dismisses anyone pushing for reform of the sex offender registry — the "pro-offender divas" or "registry abolitionist" crowd. She says the only sympathizers are convicted criminals and their girlfriends.
"It's a motley crew of slithering sex offenders and the girls who are banging them," Parkhurst says. "They're self-serving for doing it. They don't like the punishment. As far as I'm concerned, the registry is a fricking Christmas gift to these guys. They could be sitting in a five-by-seven cell."
Sex offender registries began with the 1994 Jacob Wetterling Act, a federal law that directed each state to keep a list of sex offenders for law enforcement. 1996 saw the passage of Megan's Law, which mandated states share these lists with the public. Florida was the first state to put the information online, in 1997.
Under Florida's law, people convicted of sex crimes are split into two group, predators and offenders. "Predators" include repeat offenders, or those convicted of violent first-degree crimes like kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual battery, lewd/lascivious offenses on someone under 16, or selling or buying minors for child pornography.
All other sex crimes — for example luring or enticing a child, unlawful sexual activity with certain minors, procuring a person under 18 for prostitution, and child pornography — are classified as "offenders."
As of April 2011, of 55,847 sex offenders on the state registry, 16 percent were classified as predators and 84 percent as offenders. Under the Jimmy Ryce Sexually Violent Predators Act, some predators that the Department of Children and Families deems a continuing threat to society may be civilly committed to a treatment center even after finishing their sentences. (This portion of offenders was the focus of a Sun-Sentinel series this week.)
Once released from prison, offenders must update their information — add current photos, update their workplaces — on the registries two times a year, predators four. Both groups are required to register for life. Getting removed from the list is almost impossible, except in some instances in which sex offenders hit with certain charges go 25 years without reoffending.
Many local governments in turn passed ordinances that prevent sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, park, or bus stop. As of 2011, there were 140 local ordinances in 44 Florida counties.
"There's really no set way that all the ordinances are written," says FDLE's Adam Moses. "Some are written based on the victim; some cover all offenders regardless of the age of the victim." Although sex offenders may be monitored by probation officers, it falls to local police departments to enforce these city and town residency restrictions.
In South Florida, there's hardly any developed land that isn't near a school or park, so sex offenders who've served their sentences have almost nowhere they are legally allowed to live. In Miami-Dade, there was a notorious case of released offenders living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. In Broward County, 97 percent of developed land is covered by restrictions.
The setup is met by the mainstream mostly with relief. But some have begun to question its effectiveness.
Critics argue that a person who actually groped a kid is far more dangerous than a person who clicked on a picture of child pornography, so it's unfair to classify offenders into only two berths based on their crimes without considering the individual's situation. Advocates like Gail Colletta say some might deserve heavy-duty monitoring, while others can be rehabbed.
Dr. Jill Levenson, a professor at Lynn University who has studied sex offenders, echoes the idea. "For the low-risk offenders, we want to avoid creating such obstacles in their life that they're never going to succeed. That is not a good formula."
In 2006, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Act. It required states to implement an offense-based approach to who's put on the registry. With a few easy tweaks, Florida was able to come into compliance. But it's one of only 14 states to do so. Minnesota and Washington have pulled away from the offense-based approach. They assess individuals and put only the riskiest ones on the state registry. This comes with a penalty. Noncompliance with the Walsh Act costs them 10 percent of their Department of Justice grant money.
Hardliners see reform only as a dismantling of the already-flimsy defenses people have. The Valigator says there are two main problems with the registry: Not enough people use it, and police fail to enforce it.
"The difference between me and the pro-divas is they want to minimize the dangers, whereas I want to maximize the dangers," Parkhurst says. "When I get bombarded with those kinds of alerts every day, I realized what a bunch of sick freaks there are actually walking around out there. You have to go with the premise that they're all dangerous."
Parkhurst's light-bulb moment came in the early '80s, when she was raising her only son, Justin, in Davie. She'd heard about sex offenders nearby, so the concerned mom mailed away to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a list of offenders in her ZIP code. A whopping 64 names came back.
Already a right-leaning Republican with a soft spot for capital punishment, she began relentlessly tracking offenders in her neighborhood and broadcasting their crimes and whereabouts. The online registry made the work easier, and with a Davie ordinance creating a 2,500-foot residency restriction, she could often report violators to police and push for them to be booted from the neighborhood.
When the cops were ineffective, Parkhurst resorted to shaming landlords.
When a convicted rapist named Ricardo Eire moved into a rental unit in violation of the city ordinance, Parkhurst fired off anonymous letters to property owner Paul Roseman and to all the addresses surrounding Roseman's own house in a gated community. "It is intolerable that Persons as yourself feel you can rent to the lowest of the low in a vulnerable neighborhood while disassociating yourself in a more affluent one," the letter read.
Roseman says now, "I understand, the person is a sex offender — you can't take a chance. We don't want these kind of people. The man should have been removed, and he was removed. But the nasty, threatening way it was put to me — I would have liked to have seen a signature on it."
Ingo Lang received a similar letter in early 2012 after renting to Alex Fonte, who was arrested after abducting a Boca Raton 3-year-old using ice cream and candy.
"As a landlord, you need to understand that Davie does not appreciate 'our area' homeowners who 'rent' on the warm body theory," the letter read. "It is incumbent on you to be responsible as to who inhabits your property."
"I had nothing to do with him," Lang says, adding that the letter "made me look bad. They just assumed I'm the guy with the money and I live the good life and I dumped the trash in their neighborhood. And that's not the case."
Even after Parkhurst moved into a Fort Lauderdale gated community and kept the Davie house as a rental, she kept at it. After her 2007 arrest for aiming a gun at Dale Weeks, Parkhurst stopped fliering and moved much of her activity online. Going by "Valigator," she patrolled the comments section of practically any article about sex offenders. She started a blog (http://sexoffenderissues-valigator.blogspot.com/), where she bashes "pro divas" like Colletta and champions the "anti" (social) cause.
Parkhurst has company. Fellow vigilantes include David Rowe, an Orange Park man behind No Peace for Predators, an aggressive activist group with the stated goal of having sex predators "Exposed, Exiled and, ultimately, Extinct." Rowe has pushed for tougher sentences on sex offenders and successfully pressured a Jacksonville-area offender to sell his ice cream truck in 2011. Barbara Ferris, an Orlando housewife behind the group Bee Aware, posted videos of her confrontations with offenders who put up holiday decorations on their apartments — to lure children, she worried. Web pages such as "Evil Unveiled" and "Absolute Zero United" publish the personal details of reformers — home addresses, phone numbers, emails, and screen names.
"Nationally, there are about 20 of us," Parkhurst explains, describing her online cohorts. "What we do is try to make as much noise about this issue as possible."
Derek Logue has felt their wrath. At 24, the Alabama native served three years in prison for the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl. As a registered sex offender now based in Ohio, he's become one of the loudest online advocates for reform. "Over the years, I've had [someone] describe my apartment building, tell me I'd never see him coming, told me he'd cut my head off and fuck me in the ass. Fine outstanding pillars of the community here," he says sarcastically.
But the scurrilous banter flows both ways. Counter sites like "Evil Exposed" and "Absolute Zero Unites" call out the bullies who harass offenders who have already done their time. Parkhurst is the target of at least two web pages devoted to personally trashing her, including digs about alleged alcoholism and paranoia. They say she's from "Crazie Davie," even stooping to say she's lesbian.
"The reason they throw so many stones at me," she says, "is I am a force to be reckoned with."
Or a force that doesn't pull punches. "It's about time we start finding the bodies of sex offenders on the side of the road," she says and repeats often online. "And not the bodies of kids."
For the second time in as many minutes, a low-flying jet screaming away from Miami International Airport completely blows out all other sound in the River Park Trailer Park off SW 27th Avenue. Here, accommodations look like they were handed out by an NGO in a war-torn country. Stationary trailers hammered together from construction-site leftovers are subdivided into cramped units that rent for $500 a month. Drugs are openly sold. A prostitute seems to sleepwalk among men squatting in tree shade.
About 90 sex offenders live in the trailer park — or did live there. On August 2, they were all swept out in a mass eviction.
Since Miami-Dade passed a law requiring a 2,500-foot buffer in 2007, River Park was one of the few places offenders could live. But in late July, the residents were blindsided: Somehow officials suddenly realized there was a small school in the zone, the Miami Bridge North School, a seventh- through 11th-grade school. Probation officers began telling their guys to move. (Calls to federal and county probation offices for this article were not returned.)
Evian L. White, an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami, tried to help the residents but couldn't find a legal recourse. "The government agencies tell you you have to live here because basically you're a pariah and can't live anywhere else," she says. "And now you have to go."
Antonio (who asked that his real name not be used) had called this blasted piece of Miami home after serving five years on a federal child porn charge. He claims he was caught looking at pictures of "teens, 16, 17, 18 — not the 7-year-olds. But they don't care. They throw me in the same boat with someone who probably raped a 9-year-old."
Residency restrictions are a joke, Gail Colletta says. They "don't prevent anything. They're about where a sex offender sleeps, where he is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. So what's the difference if my address is across the street from a school or 2,500 feet away from a school? If I am hell-bent on kidnapping a child, do you really think it matters to me where I live?"
As often as possible, Colletta makes the 500-mile trek up the Panhandle to the Calhoun Correctional Institute, where her six hours allotted per weekend with Alex are spent at a plastic table in a frigid visiting room.
Back on the other side of the barbed wire, Colletta rolled that heartache into her work, the phone calls to legislators, the sitdowns with sex offenders. "I can't stop," she says. She brushes off nasty comments from the Valigator as needless fearmongering and instead tries to persuade people with research, facts, and compassion.
Since taking over the presidency of the Florida Action Committee, she has made herself a fixture in Tallahassee, hauling carloads of sex offenders to meetings with representatives. She's published op-eds. Colletta has even forked over her own money to create a public service announcement about how a curious click of child porn can land a person in serious legal trouble.
From her home in Boynton Beach, Colletta worked the phones, trying to bring attention to the River Park evictees. She blasted out four news releases, but hardly anyone covered it. "Apparently, the South Florida news community had 'bigger fires' to report on," the last release snarled.
Ninety minutes up I-95 from River Park in Lake Worth, Damian Garcia puffs on an electronic cigarette while his 3-year-old son wobbles about the lawn. He outlines big plans for the backyard — a pergola, a movie projector. As his pretty wife, Angelica, comes out to the porch with dinner, Garcia beams. "I really don't feel like I live the life of a typical sex offender."
But Garcia could be booted in two weeks. When he was 18, Garcia had what he claims was consensual sex with a girl he met at the beach. She said she was 17 but was actually 15. He was charged with lewd or lascivious battery. Eventually, Garcia accepted a withhold of adjudication, a legal option that meant he would not be found guilty of a felony but did include three years of probation. Tagged on was the registry.
"If I was any other criminal, my sentence would be done," Garcia says. "Say you're a prospective employer and you're looking at my background — this doesn't come up at all on a background check. But if you do a Google search of my name, you'll see me on the registry."
It got worse. A 2007 Florida law allowed "Romeos" in statutory rape cases (sometimes called "Romeo and Juliet cases") like Garcia's to petition off the registry. Garcia met all the criteria, except that, to save money, he got his psychosexual evaluation from a therapist other than the one chosen by the court. A judge denied his petition. The law allows Romeos just one shot to get off the list — and his was blown.
Despite his label, Garcia has been able to make a good living working small-time finance jobs. But after filing this new address with the registry, the phone call came from local police: His new home was 1,500 feet from a school bus stop, a violation of Lake Worth's ordinance. Move or face arrest.
"I don't even know where the bus stop is," he says. He couldn't even contest the case until school began for the fall because administrators were unavailable to confirm bus routes.
Stories like these are why some experts like Levenson feel residency restrictions and the sex offender registry fail to prevent sex offenders from committing more crimes. Rather, the tough, one-size-fits-all stance makes life so shitty for low-risk offenders that it raises their chances of acting criminally again. And wasting resources on low-risk offenders stretches the system too thin to closely monitor the highest-risk criminals, they argue.
Last November, Lynn University's Levenson and a team of researchers looked at the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Nationally, they reoffended an average of 5.1 percent after five years and 10.3 percent after ten years. If Florida's tough approach were working, you'd expect those digits to be lower than the average, but actually the state's rates are 5.2 and 13.7 percent, respectively.
The study also found no correlation between residency restrictions and a lower rate of recidivism. The restrictions seem to push more offenders to homelessness.
In fact, 60 of the 90 offenders who were bulldozed out of River Park are now living near the rail tracks on 71st Street and 37th Avenue.
Detective Adam Granit, a stocky sex crimes officer from the Davie Police Department, stands at the front of the room. The audience is mostly concerned moms. As if they were handing them out at the door, the same tight frown is etched on each face. For tonight's monthly neighborhood crime meeting, the topic is sex offenders.
"Listen, let me start off by saying I might not agree with the rules, but those are the rules I have to go by," the cop says.
One mom asks which offenders are allowed into public parks.
"You're not going to like this answer," the cop says, but offenders with adult victims are "all allowed to go to parks." State law prevents sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a park if their victim was a child, and Davie's local ordinance makes that buffer zone larger: 2,500 feet. State law also forbids offenders with child victims from going within 300 feet of places where children congregate.
The conversation hovers on familiar neighborhood characters. William Sears was convicted of sexual battery in 1996. According to police records, he forced anal sex on an adult woman in the back seat of a parked car. Today, neighbors say he throws trash on adjoining properties and lets his angry pit bulls run without a leash. But because his victim was an adult, he's free to hang out in the park.
"I understand nobody wants any of these people in the neighborhood," the police officers sighs calmly. "Especially him."
"Especially him," Valerie Parkhurst echoes forcefully from the back row. Still wearing medical scrubs from her day job as a dental assistant, she sits with her legs crossed, fingers wrapped around a piece of junk mail on which she's scribbled notes.
"It's just such a disconnect that there are some guys you can hold accountable and keep away from parks and schools because their victim was a child and then there's other guys who are the worst of the worst — rapists, batterers, maybe they've killed — but their victims were not listed as a child [and] they get free rein," she says, nods breaking out in the audience. "It's almost insane."
Luis Andino was another neighbor who had the room's attention. In 2005, the then-54-year-old Puerto Rico native pleaded guilty to lewd or lascivious molestation. Andino rubbed his crotch against the behind of a 10-year-old girl he'd lured into an empty apartment at the complex where he worked as a maintenance man.
He lives near a park. Detective Granit explains he's allowed to live there because of an old exemption in the law for sex offenders who owned their homes: Even if the home happened to be near a school or park, they could live in it if they owned it prior to committing their crime. A statute sutured up the loophole in 2009, but the timing of the ordinance creates a gray area in Andino's case.
The fact that each city and county has different restrictions creates a Balkanized landscape where both offenders and residents are confused. But even common-sense measures are a tough sell in Tallahassee if there's a sense they're lenient for sex offenders.
"I had a bill that was ready to pass when I was in the Legislature about five years ago that would have made sex offender registry restrictions more standardized," says Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. At the last minute, a group of Miami-Dade and Broward legislators killed the bill by accusing Aronberg of being soft on crime. "In reality, it was tougher," he argues, because with less confusing restrictions, fewer offenders would register as homeless, which makes it hard to keep track of them at all.
Colletta says she's now a familiar face with legislators in Tallahassee — but so far, none of them wants to be publicly tied to her cause. "I won't give you any names right now," she says, "but there's one legislator we have who may help us present some legislation."
After the meeting, Parkhurst drags on a cigarette and offers clarification. "I can overlook some things. Why turn a guy's world upside down when he seems to be walking the straight and narrow?" she asks. Parkhurst supports allowing low-risk Romeos off the registry. "Then there are other things I cannot overlook. Sears is one of them, but my hands are kind of tied with him."
(Sears, reached by phone, says, "I completely understand people being concerned about me in their community," but he adds, "I have no intention of doing anything like that again.")
Like a gun moll in a film noir, she shoots smoke from her mouth into the rainy night. "Andino? I'm not overlooking Andino. I'm getting his ass out."
Parkhurst boasts that she's pressured hundreds of sex offenders out of the neighborhood over the years. Today, the offenders database lists only 11 offenders in the 33314 ZIP code. (For comparison, nearby 33317 has 37.) Davie Police did not return calls about Parkhurst's rogue approach, nor did the department offer data about the number of sex offenders found violating its residency restrictions.
About a week later, Parkhurst's white Suburban again tools through the quiet side streets of Davie, checking up on offenders.
"Do I hate them?" she muses."I wouldn't invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. When I can look up the criminal history of William Sears and see that this guy should be sitting in a five-by-seven and not breathing the same air as me, then yeah, I hate him. And that drives my passion. It makes it easier for me to pull out all the guns — pardon the pun."
Following her 2007 showdown with Dale Weeks, Parkhurst began having second thoughts about waging her fight. But months after the incident, Weeks was arrested for armed robbery. (He's currently in prison.) Charges against Parkhurst were dropped. Claiming she had only been acting in self-defense, she filed a civil suit for wrongful arrest. The parties settled before the case was set to go to trial in 2012. Parkhurst declines to say how much she was awarded.
The Suburban jams to a halt near the cracked asphalt of a single-hoop basketball court. "This is a little-known park that I use," Parkhurst explains. "It's very strategic for these scumbags over here."
She pulls out one of her hand-scribbled envelopes, then points to a name: Hammoudeh Safi, a Guatemalan native with a 2003 conviction for gross sexual imposition of someone under 13. "He was just put on the registry yesterday. He is [at] 3672 SW 60th Terrace." She pilots the truck around the corner to a crumbling unit in a single-story row of apartments. It looks to be within the 2,500-foot distance from the park.
Parkhurst's lips hitch up into a wide smile. "So tell me, is my sex crimes officer doing his job?"