Sunday, December 05, 1999

Recent cases of aggravated stupidity




BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        We know so much. Yet we do so many ignorant things. Stupid, really.

        We know pedophiles don't experience a spontaneous remission and cure. We know they seek jobs in places where there are children. We know more children are abused by neighbors and caregivers and family than by strangers.

        We know men who threaten women with violence often make good on their threats. We know the people closest to us can be the most lethal.

        We know these things. Maybe we just don't believe them.

        What was William Hugh Chapman doing out of jail? Was his right to a home-cooked turkey dinner more pressing than Suzie Thompson's right to safety? Authorities say the man, released from Warren County jail for Thanksgiving, shot and killed Mrs. Thompson on Dec. 1.

        Just as he said he would.

An ugly history
        Court officials said the judge was not aware of William Chapman's ugly past. But somebody there could have simply logged onto the Web site of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and gotten the entire Chapman history, including domestic violence and weapons charges dating to 1993.

        Why was pedophile Ralph Lynch so unencumbered by his past that he was able to get a job working in a church nursery? Why, after he was arrested on a sex charge, was he free to murder and rape 6-year-old Mary Love? Dr. Jill Bley, a clinical psychologist, testified at his sentencing hearing that in her opinion, pedophiles “have to be in treatment for the rest of their lives.”

        So when we catch one, why do we ever let him out of our sight?

        Why was Roy Puckelwartz, under investigation in the 1993 rape of a 13-year-old boy here, working as a gym teacher in Florida? The head of the school said he knew nothing of Roy Puckelwartz's past, which included dismissal from a foster care facility after allegations he made sexual overtures to minors.

        Then Roy Neuton Puckelwartz disappeared. It's not as though his name was John Smith, yet he was off the radar screen. Meanwhile, I am convinced the cashier at Wal-Mart can look up my home address and find out whether I have any overdue library books. And God only knows what would happen to me if I tried to elude the IRS.

Protecting predators
        In the midst of this, Ohio's Supreme Court is deciding whether law enforcement officials have the right to disseminate information about sex offenders. A public defender argued last week that Megan's Law, named after a 7-year-old New Jersey girl raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender living in her neighborhood, violates the privacy rights of Huey Gowdy.

        Convicted in Hamilton County in 1997 on two counts of rape, Huey Gowdy's rights were violated because, according to his attorney, “law enforcement is aggressively disseminating the information.” For example, she said, the Franklin County sheriff's office maintains a searchable sexual offender database on its Web site.

        Well, that's the idea, isn't it?

        Oh, and by the way, authorities in St. Petersburg told The Cincinnati Enquirer's Sheila McLaughlin that Roy Puckelwartz was in the process of adopting a 2-year-old boy. The agency didn't know about his past.

        I wonder whether Suzie Thompson could have disappeared. She tried everything else. She spent hours at the court clerk's office filing charges and trying to get a restraining order. Her mother told reporters her daughter was afraid of William Chapman, whom she dated briefly. “He was very nice until she left him.”

        This, too, we know.

        “The most dangerous time for a woman is when she tries to leave,” says Ann McDonald of Women Helping Women. She lists a number of other “predictors of lethality.” Threats. Weapons. Pretty much everything William Chapman did before he shot Suzie Thompson to death in her own bedroom.

        “We all need to do a better job of paying attention to the red flags,” Ms. McDonald says.

        Maybe someday what we do will catch up with what we know.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at laurapulfer@enquirer.com