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Sex predator returns to his home

After his release from prison, Laverne Douglas King was ordered not to live within 1,000 feet of any school, day care center or playground.

This week, King, registered with the state as a "sexual predator," was allowed to return to his home on Trouble Creek Road _ just 600 feet from the School Zone day care center and a block from Mittye P. Locke Elementary School and another day care center, Baby Care.

Etta Gelmi, who runs Baby Care, said she was outraged that no one informed her that a convicted child molester lived so close to her center, which supervises 45 children, mostly younger than 2.

"As far as I'm concerned he should still be behind bars," said Gelmi. "But if he's out and living right down the street, they should've told us. We're not the judges or the attorneys, so I guess we can't do anything."

King, a 55-year-old welder, was convicted in 1985 of sexual battery and again in 1996 of committing a lewd and lascivious act on a child younger than 16.

The state designated him a sexual predator in June. The state defines sexual predators as repeat sex offenders, sex offenders who use violence or sex offenders who prey on children.

On Monday, Circuit Judge Craig T. Villanti agreed to allow King to live at 5422 Trouble Creek Road, where he runs his business, King's Trailer Repair.

Reached by phone at his home Friday, King declined to comment. King's attorney, Chip Mander, was out of town and could not be reached.

In court papers, Mander argued that the restriction on where King could live was unfairly imposed when he was sentenced in August 1996. Because the restriction was not read aloud in court, it was not legal, Mander wrote. King lived and worked at the house before the School Zone day care was built, he said.

A worker at School Zone said she was aware of King's past but would not comment.

Dennis Taylor, principal at Mittye P. Locke, said he also knew of King's past. He said he had thought King was allowed to work at the home on Trouble Creek but not live there. Taylor said he did not know that a court hearing on the matter was this week.

"It is a concern because these gentlemen, unfortunately, have a tendency to return to this kind of behavior," Taylor said. "But when it comes to the safety of our children, we're always on our toes."

Although students who walk home from the school may have to pass King's home, Taylor said his staff members are always on alert for strangers.

Until recently, King listed his address as Travel Inn Motel in New Port Richey. Under state law, sexual predators are required to notify law enforcement of their current address.

King pleaded no contest in 1995 to allegations that he had sex twice with a 13-year-old girl. The girl's father urged the court in 1996 to impose a severe sentence.

"He took advantage of my daughter, and the guy thinks it's funny. He thinks it's great," the father said. "He's going to continue doing it over and over again to other kids, and this is not right."

Gelmi said she planned to ensure King does not victimize children in her care.

"There is no way anyone is getting near these kids," she said. "No one is going to hurt them. Not if I can help it."