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Protest at house of molester canceled

They arrived ready to drive a convicted child molester from his home.

They left determined to keep sex offenders such as Robert "Jinks" Hatcher behind bars _ and away from their children.

"We cannot legally force this man from his home, much as we'd like to," said Robin Lane, a Hudson Elementary School parent. "Instead of fighting, let's do something to guard our children and get these laws changed."

Two weeks after Hatcher was released from prison, parents canceled plans to picket today in front of Hatcher's house, which is directly across from the school on Hudson Avenue.

Instead, they pledged to work for better security at schools and lobby for laws that restrict where sex offenders can live once they are released.

Sheriff Lee Cannon, who met with the parents at the Hudson Community Club on Monday, urged them to restrain their urge to take matters into their own hands.

"I know you all have probably had it up to here with what the law says, but, in the eyes of the law, he has paid his debt," Cannon said. "Any moral debt will have to be decided by somebody with a much higher authority than any of us."

Hatcher's release March 13 prompted outrage among parents of many of the 900-plus children at Hudson Elementary.

Now 81, Hatcher molested three girls as many as 100 times each, from the time they were 4 until their teenage years. He served less than four years of a 10-year sentence.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman told parents Hatcher would serve five years of probation, during which he would get "more than routine attention" because of the nature of his crime and the publicity of the case.

Parents had decided to hold a peaceful rally outside Hatcher's home to urge him to leave. Monday, they said they still hope he will move, although they do not plan to demonstrate.

The discussion prompted one man to question how the group could want to take away Hatcher's right to live in a home he has lived in for more than 50 years.

A woman responded: "What about those three little girls? He took away their rights."

To which the man shot back: "He didn't take away their rights; he only molested them," prompting a howl of outrage from parents. The names of the man and woman involved in the exchange weren't available.

Parents who previously had rallied for a protest against Hatcher said Monday they want to turn the spotlight away from Hatcher and onto the children.

"He is right where he belongs, right next to the trash," said Kathleen McAteer, referring to Hatcher's Disposal, next door to Hatcher's home.

The owners of the company, which has been sold several times since Hatcher's involvement, said they plan to rename their business and will award a computer to the child who picks the name. They also plan to donate a computer to the school.

The offer drew applause from parents, who said they want a sheriff's deputy at every elementary school, security cameras and improved lighting at all schools.

Hatcher's case has focused media attention on Hudson since news of his release spread last week. Representatives from Geraldo have approached Hatcher about being a guest on the tabloid television show.

"I don't much like going on TV shows," he said. "I told them, "No, thanks. We're going to stay a little quiet and stay out of trouble.'

"

Hatcher's wife, Alice, who has stood firmly by her husband since his release, was relieved to hear that protesters would not be at her door today.

As her husband tended to their garden, Mrs. Hatcher reiterated her conviction that her husband of more than 50 years has changed.

She said she has asked the women Hatcher molested to forgive him.

"My husband has found God, and the Lord has healed him," she said. "He can't undo what he did. But he had his day in court and he served his time. He is no threat to anyone."

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