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INVESTIGATION: Sex Offender Counseling Center Opens Near Bus Stop, Gun Shop

Thursday, April 09, 2015

 

A counseling agency that serves sex offenders has opened in a shopping plaza in Warwick near an elementary school bus stop and businesses likely to be frequented by women and children, a GoLocalProv investigation has found.

The agency, Counseling Services of Rhode Island, is in the Gold Plaza on Warwick Avenue, sandwiched between a gun shop and a hair salon. It is also in a neighborhood with a bus stop for the Wyman Elementary School, the school department confirmed.

Though the center opened up last fall, most businesses in the plaza did not become aware of the kind of services offered and the clients it drew until this week, according to a man who is a relative of one of the business owners. He would only speak on the condition of anonymity, over fear of reprisals from suspected convicts visiting the counseling center. “It’s the criminal element being at that place—if they get wind of who’s trying to get rid of that establishment,” the relative said.

The owner of the hair salon, Studio West Hair Designs, declined comment, as did the gun store, ProLine Firearms. By law, it is illegal to sell a firearm to someone who has been imprisoned for over a year.  

The plaza is also home to a pet grooming salon, a coin and collectibles store, a computer troubleshooting center, and a furniture repair shop. 

Counseling Services of Rhode Island registered as a business with the Secretary of State’s office in 2011. State records and its Web site list an office address at 225 Newman Ave in Rumford. The location is an office building, not a shopping plaza, and the other tenants tend to be small business offices such as an insurance agent and an accountant, rather than high-traffic shops and stores like in Warwick.

State records show that it has apparently bid unsuccessfully for a state contract on sex offender treatment services. The agency offers treatment and other services for those suffering from a range of mental health-related problems, including sex offenders, fire setters, and domestic abusers according to its Web site. Two of the three counselors whose bios are posted on the Web site have expertise in treatment of sexual abusers.

Yesterday, an owner and manager at the agency refused to answer any questions about the business, its clients, or the decision to open in Warwick. “Nope. No comment,” said the woman, who would only give her first name, Anne. (The Web site lists Anne Boutin-Gammon as the owner.)

A loophole in the law?

While state law requires community notifications for where sex offenders live, work, and go to school, there is no such requirement for counseling centers that serve sex offenders, according to Stephen Lombardi, a patrol officer in the Warwick Police Department who is assigned to sex offender monitoring and notification.

Lombardi was asked if he considered the absence of a notification requirement for counseling centers a gap in the law. “I just think it’s one of those things where unfortunately we can’t account for their … whereabouts every minute of the day,” Lombardi said.

He gave the example of a sex offender who lives in one community but often visits a relative in another. “How do you account for that?” said Lombardi, who also is assigned to the statewide U.S. Marshals’ statewide sex offenders task force. Overall, he said the notification system has improved much over the last decade.

Lombardi said he understands why the public tends to focus on the locations of known sex offenders. But he said most cases of child sexual abuse involve someone who the family trusts and knows—such as a relative, friend, or neighbor. As important as notification procedures are, Lombardi said, there is no substitute for educating children on how to be safe. (He recommends radkids.org as a resource for parents.)

School superintendent says district should be notified

Warwick Schools Superintendent Richard D’Agostino told GoLocalProv that to his knowledge the district had not been notified of the opening of the counseling center. He said it should have been. “Assuming the [allegations] are correct and given student safety is of paramount concern, I would hope that we would be notified,” D’Agostino said in an e-mail.

D’Agostino also confirmed that there is an elementary school bus stop in the neighborhood, but not within 300 feet of the counseling center.

The district has moved bus stop locations in the past, after a sex offender has moved close by, according to Lombardi. He said the district is notified when offenders move into the community.

After GoLocalProv contacted his office with questions about the counseling center, D’Agostino said the district would be looking further into the matter. “We are looking into the services provided by this agency, the bus stop, concern with the ordinance and providing information to our parents and utmost student safety,” he said.

Lawmaker open to notification law

The Gold Plaza is located in the House district represented by Rep. Joseph McNamara, who lives within a mile of the shopping center. McNamara spoke with a reporter yesterday shortly after appearing at a hearing on a bill he has proposed that would extend the buffer zone between sex offender residences and schools from 300 feet to 1,000 feet. McNamara said he proposed the bill after an offender moved near a school and a game store but was just outside the 300-foot radius.

The situation had stirred anxiety among the community he said, prompting him to take action. “It is extremely traumatic for the community,” said McNamara, himself a retired educator who most recently served as the director of the Pawtucket School District’s Alternative Learning Program.

He doubts a similar legislative remedy would be feasible for a counseling center that serves sex offenders. “I think it would be difficult because it’s concerned with the supply of medical and clinical services,” McNamara said.

But what about a notification law for any nearby residents, businesses, or schools? “I think that could be a possibility,” McNamara said.

There is some state oversight of the agency. Its owner, Anne Boutin-Gammon, is listed under state Department of Health records as a licensed mental health counselor, with no complaints or other professional issues noted. However, sex offender counseling centers themselves are not licensed by the state, according to Christina Batastini, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health. 

 

Related Slideshow: Warwick’s 28 Most Dangerous Sex Offenders

Below is information on the 28 sex offenders who are listed as living in Warwick by state authorities. Public notification is required for Level II and Level III offenders. Level II offenders are deemed to have a moderate risk of re-offending. Level III means there is a high risk. All information on offenders is taken from Sex Offender Community Notification Unit of the State Parole Board. 

Prev Next

Donald King

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 5/18/1983

Convicted of: 2nd Degree Sexual Assault (Domestic). Victim was a 20 year old female known to the offender.

Victim: 20 year old female known to the offender.

Community Supervision: Probation expires 11/19/2016

Prev Next

Harry Gonzalez

Level II Offender 

Date of Birth: 3/1/1966

Convicted of: RI Failure to Register; FL Charge: Attempted Sexual Battery, Victim was an 18 year old female known to the offender.

Victim: 18 year old female known to the offender.

Community Supervision: Probation has expired. 

Prev Next

Edward Homer

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 10/28/1983

Convicted of: Child Pornography, Disorderly Conduct (Indecent Exposure)

Victim: No information available 

Community Supervision: Probation expires 11/8/2019.

Prev Next

John Graichen

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 8/20/1979

Convicted of: Child Pornography

Victim: No Information available

Community Supervision: Probation expires 5/13/2018.

Prev Next

Bruce Dicarlo

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 3/27/1960

Convicted of: SEXUAL ASSAULT 3RD DEGREE. Victim was a 15 year old male known to the offender at the time of offense.

Victim: 15 year old male known to the offender 

Community Supervision: Probation Expires: 5/23/2009

Prev Next

Bruce Burdwood

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 7/22/1984

Convicted of: Failure to Register; 3rd Degree Sexual assault. Assaulted a 15 year old female subject had met that day.

Victim: 15 year old female subject had met that day

Community Supervision: Offender will remain under Adult Probation Supervision until July 2006.

Prev Next

Keith Burns

Level II Offender 

Date of Birth: 1/30/1959

Convicted of: VT charge - Lewd/Lascivious Conduct with a Child.

Victim: Child.

Community Supervision: Lifetime Supervision

Prev Next

Russell Smith

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 12/6/1973

Convicted of: Possession of Child Pornography.

Victim: No information available

Community Supervision: Probation expires 9/26/2015

Prev Next

Edward Hartford

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 8/20/1964

Convicted of: Failure to Register

Victim: No Information available 

Community Supervision: Supervision ends 12/16/2028.

Prev Next

Ronald Jacobs

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 12/20/1965

Convicted of: 1st Degree Sexual Assault. Assaulted a 46 year old female known to the offender.

Victim: 46 year old female known to the offender.

Community Supervision: Will be supervised by Adult Probation until September, 2018. Lifetime Registration.

Prev Next

Christopher Person

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 10/9/1979

Convicted of: 2nd Degree Sexual Assault. Both victims were 17 year old males who were known to the offender.

Victims: 17 year old males who were known to the offender.

Community Supervision: Probation expires 5/30/2026.

Prev Next

Jonathan Nakielny

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 3/10/1975

Convicted of: Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography.

Victim: No information available 

Community Supervision: Probation expires 7/24/2017.

Prev Next

Thomas McGuire

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 12/30/1977

Convicted of: 2nd Degree Child Molestation. Victim was an 8 year old female at the onset of the offense. She was known to the offender.

Victim: 8 year old female

Community Supervision: Probation expires 10/14/2023.

Prev Next

Randy Jacques

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 4/12/1981

Convicted of: Subject was convicted of Third Degree Sexual Assault. Victim was a 14 year old female known to the offender.

Victim: 14 year old female known to offender

Community Supervision: Probation has expired for this offense.

Prev Next

Ray Carpenter

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 3/11/1975

Convicted of: TX conviction of Sexual Assault of a Child. Victim was a 16 year old female the subject had met that day. 

Victim: 16 year old female the subject had met that day.

Community Supervision: Probation has expired. Lifetime Registration.

Prev Next

Timothy Suttles

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 11/3/1973

Convicted of: 4 cts 3rd Degree Sexual Assault. Victims were a 14 and 15 year old females known to the offender.

Victims: 14 and 15 year old females known to the offender.

Community Supervision: Probation has expired for these offenses.

Prev Next

Robert Tooher

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 8/6/1964

Convicted of: Possession of Child Pornography.

Victim: No information available 

Community Supervision: Probation expires 3/14/2016

Prev Next

Dennis Smith

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 12/6/1961

Convicted of: 2nd degree Child Molestation of a 15 year old female, who was known to the offender

Victim: 15 year old female, who was known to the offender

Community Supervision: Probation expired 4/28/2010.

Prev Next

Jason Weeks

Level II Offender

Date of Birth: 3/1/1987

Convicted of: Failure to Register.

Victim: No Information available

Community Supervision: Probation expires: 2/6/2014.

Prev Next

Robert Bumpus

Level III Offender    

Date of Birth: 3/3/1977

Convicted of: 1st Degree Sexual Assault. 

Victim: 27 year old female known to the offender

Community Supervision: Probation expires 2/12/2053

Prev Next

Joseph Couie

Level III Offender

Date of Birth: 4/24/1948

Convicted of: Subject has been been convicted of Second Degree Child Molestation, Second Degree Sexual Assualt and Abominable and Detestable Crimes Against Nature

Victims: No information available.

Community Supervision: Subject is a recidivist and falls under lifetime registration requirements and community supervision guidelines

Prev Next

Byron DeWeldon

Level III Offender 

Date of Birth: 8/8/1970

Convicted of: RI- 3rd Degree Sexual Assault. Victim was a 15 year male. 2nd Degree Child Molestation. Victims were three 11 year old males. MA Offense - Indecent Assault & Battery on Child under 14. Victim was an 11 year old male.

Victim: 11 year old male 

Community Supervision: Probation has expired for all charges.

Prev Next

Dwayne Gagnon

Level III Offender 

Date of Birth: 8/26/1959

Convicted of: Indecent Assault and Battery on a Child under 14. Rape and Abuse of a Child under 16. Open & Gross Lewdness and Lascivious Behavior.

Victims: Child under 14, Child under 16 

Community Supervision: Probation expires 3/28/2012.

Prev Next

Laurence Gagnon

Level III Offender

Date of Birth: 7/25/1940

Convicted of: 2nd Degree Child Molestation (3 counts). Victims were 12 year old males known to the offender.

Victim: A 12 year old males known to the offender.

Community Supervision: Probation expires 4/29/2023.

Prev Next

William Hicks

Level III Offender 

Date of Birth: 3/11/1942

Convicted of: 1st Degree Sexual Assault (3 cts). Victim was a 30 year old female who was known to the offender.

Victim: 30 year old female who was known to the offender.

Community Supervision: Probation Expires 7/1/2038. Lifetime Registration.

Prev Next

Robert Miller

Level III Offender 

Date of Birth: 9/2/1959

Convicted of: NY charges - Failure to Register; Sexual Abuse 2nd. Victim was a 12 year old female known to offender. 3rd Degree Sexual Abuse. Victim was a 16 year old female known to offender. Sexual Abuse 3rd. Victim information unknown.

Victim: 16 year old female known to offender.

Community Supervision: Probation has expired. Lifetime Registration.

Prev Next

John Nichols

Level III Offender

Date of Birth: 3/30/1976

Convicted of: 2nd Degree Sexual Assault. Victims were adult females unknown to the offender.

Victim: adult females unknown to the offender.

Community Supervision: Probation has expired for this offense. Lifetime Registration.

Prev Next

Robert Thibault

Level III Offender 

Date of Birth: 1/21/1963

Convicted of: Child Pornography; 1st Degree Child Molestation. Victim was a 2 year old female known to the offender.

Victim: 2 Year Old Female knowkn to the offender 

Community Supervision: Probation expires 11/28/2023.

 
 

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