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Molester Is Forced to Move Again

Protests at a Riverside halfway house lead to the relocation of a sex offender. He was driven from another part of town this week.

September 26, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A convicted child molester who moved to Riverside after being released from a state mental hospital was forced to move for the second time this week because of protests from neighbors.

On Thursday, nearly 200 parents, children and other community members demonstrated outside a La Sierra halfway house that was home to David Claud Phillips, who last week was released from Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino after 21 years.

Phillips, 54, was convicted in 1982 of sexually assaulting his girlfriend's 4-year-old son in San Diego County. He was hospitalized after being declared a disordered sex offender.

After a judge ordered Phillips to be released last week, Phillips moved to a friend's house in the Arlington area of Riverside. Riverside police alerted neighbors that a "high risk" sex offender had moved into the area, causing protests from residents, and Phillips moved to the halfway house.

During Thursday's protest, a man who lives in the halfway house informed demonstrators that Phillips had been told to leave because of the attention he was generating. "He's not welcome here, that's all I got to say," said the man, who refused to give his name.

The man handed neighbors a new address for Phillips in Lake Elsinore, but Riverside County sheriff's spokeswoman Shelley Kennedy-Smith said Phillips' attempt to move there was unsuccessful, and that representatives at Patton State Hospital were trying to find Phillips a suitable new residence. His whereabouts Thursday night were unknown.

Phillips has been classified as a high-risk sex offender, and is required to register with local police wherever he lives. "Officially, he's still considered to be living in Riverside," Kennedy-Smith said.

Residents of the La Sierra neighborhood, first informed of Phillips' arrival when police distributed fliers featuring his photo and his criminal record, expressed relief that Phillips had departed. Still, they were concerned that he had the right to live within half a mile of Orrenmaa Elementary and Arizona Middle schools.

"There are about 2,300 kids between 4 and 14 at those schools," Marty Alarcon said. "If [the law] doesn't have enough teeth to keep a guy like him away from here, it needs more teeth. I believe the placement alone of this man in this neighborhood is child abuse. Our children are frightened."

Susan Holmes, a mother of four who organized the afternoon protest, acknowledged that if police continue to post fliers in every neighborhood where Phillips lives, he might eventually start dodging police.

"If he does go underground, at least there's a consequence to his action that would send him [into custody] again," Holmes said. "It does bother me, though, that, yes, we'll chase him out, but now he becomes someone else's problem."

At the protest Thursday, children helped carry poster-board signs urging Phillips to leave. Some read, "Child Endangerment Ahead," "Mentally Ill Child Molester Down the Street," and "Please Make the Bad Man Go Away."

Tabitha Falcone, a mother of children ages 4, 7 and 17 who lives next door to the home Phillips occupied for a night, said many fathers confronted Phillips on Wednesday night, telling him he should leave.

Alarcon said she wants neighbors to petition to remove the occupants of the halfway house.

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