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81-year-old convicted rapist returns home

Robert "Jinks" Hatcher reveled in his recent reunion with family members as Alice, his wife of 53 years, sang a song she wrote in his honor.

"It doesn't matter what you've done or where you've been," she sang Wednesday, tears in her eyes. "When all is said and done, you can come back home again."

What Hatcher did was rape three girls. As many as 100 times each. When they were as young as 4 years old.

His release from prison last week was no cause for celebration to their stepfather.

"I never thought he would live long enough to see the light of day," he said of Hatcher, now 81, who served less than four years of a 10-year sentence. "He made a career out of molesting my three children.

"It is very disturbing to me that he is out. I fear him doing this to another child and I urge parents in that neighborhood to keep close watch on their children."

Hatcher returned to his family's longtime home on Hudson Avenue _ directly across from Hudson Elementary School.

Principal John Shafchuk said he called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday after he heard that a convicted child molester had moved in to the small home that faces the school parking lot.

"We received a phone call from an anonymous caller," he said. "Whenever you hear something like that, there is some concern for the safety of the children."

Shafchuk said he requested patrols in the area be increased before and after school and alerted teachers to Hatcher's presence.

Surrounded by family members, Hatcher, who pleaded no contest to 12 counts of sexual battery in 1993, said he is no threat to anyone. He said he spent his time in prison reading the Bible and studying for his high school equivalency exam.

"I never did get to it (the exam)," said Hatcher, who was raised on a farm in Cedar Key and has a first-grade education. "But I profited from going to prison, I really did. I have no malice in my heart whatsoever."

Hatcher is a onetime fisherman and the founder of a successful garbage business. He has no connection to Hatcher's Seafood of New Port Richey.

He said Wednesday he plans to "do right and live for God." Since his release March 13, he has begun tending to his yard, overgrown from four years of neglect.

Alice Hatcher, 69, said she has forgiven her husband and believes the Lord has, too.

"It's been hard," she said. "At one time, I couldn't stand to look at him. But love doesn't die. You can't kill it. Four years is nothing compared to spending eternity in hell."

Hatcher said he had a dream in which "Jesus showed me where I was going if I continued in my evil ways."

His victims, now in their 20s, told sheriff's detectives that Hatcher forced them to have sexual intercourse and engage in other sexual acts at his home, on his boat and in a small house on an island in the Gulf of Mexico.

The girls carved messages such as "please stop" into the wood at the house. Detectives cut away planks of wood as evidence. The abuse occurred more than a decade before Hatcher's arrest.

Hatcher's daughter-in-law, Randy, said the family's devotion to Christ helped them to forgive him.

"We have seen a tremendous change in him," she said. "He has asked forgiveness for what he did and accepted responsibility for it. I understand people's skepticism, but he is an old man. We want to see them (Hatcher and his wife, Alice) spend their last years together."

Hatcher could have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. The stepfather of his victims said he and his wife accepted the terms of Hatcher's plea agreement to spare their daughters from having to testify.

Under the terms of his probation, Hatcher cannot leave the county without notifying his probation officer and cannot have contact with his victims.

Although he served less than half of his original sentence, Hatcher's release is not linked to the recent wave of felons let out of prison after a Supreme Court ruling on gain time.

"As far as the state is concerned, he's done his time," said sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers.

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