Sex offender moves in, residents voice concerns

Stranger DangerAbout 100 area residents attended the one-hour public notification meeting conducted Wednesday, April 24,  to learn about the level 3 sex offender who moved to Foreston May 1.

Mille Lacs County Sheriff Brent Lindgren as well as representatives of the Minnesota Department of Corrections were available to answer questions residents had regarding Joshua David Ross’ new address.

Amy Udermann, a Foreston resident, attended the meeting after learning her 8-year-old daughter, Ruby, was in the age group of Ross’ victims. She said the corrections officer did a good job of answering questions and reassuring the public that their safety was paramount. Before attending the meeting, Udermann said her initial reaction was fear.

“I was scared. I was mad,” she said.

The meeting helped alleviate those feelings,  however.

“It opened my eyes in many ways,” she said.

An ‘eye-opening’ experience

The first eye-opener for Udermann was when officials said that four sex offenders, besides Ross, were already living in the area. The offenders were not level 3, and therefore did not mandate a public notice prior to moving to the area.

“So there was four of them whom I wasn’t even aware of,” she said.

Udermann was comforted by the fact that Ross will be monitored four times a week on a random basis by his probation officer.

“He’s being watched, and we as a community can be more mindful,” she said. “But I do worry because it got pretty heated in there. A community member could get themselves in trouble.”

By the end of the meeting, however, Udermann said she was glad the pubic was notified and given a venue to make their concerns heard.

“I came out of there actually feeling much better about it,” she said. “I think people were just voicing their fears. I didn’t get the feeling that the pitchforks would come out.”

Judy Pearson, Director of Pearl Crisis Center, was also there that night to observe the proceedings.

“This was my first experience attending a notification meeting and was pleasantly surprised by the number of concerned community members and parents in attendance,” Pearson said. “I was, however, saddened by the lack of knowledge regarding this issue. Sexual assault and violence against children happens every day in our communities and, frighteningly enough, the most dangerous predator, and most likely to violate your child, is someone you know and trust.”

The ‘stranger’ you know

She said that’s not to say that parents should stop watching out for strangers, but they need to pay closer attention to those they know.

“It is not the stranger in the park — it is the people you have in your home,” Pearson said. “The people most likely to abuse a child are the ones with the most opportunity, most access and most trust. Abusers can be parents, step-parents, uncles, aunts, step-siblings, baby sitters, tutors and family friends.”