January 10, 1998 in Nation/World

Hauser Lake Neighbors Want Sex Offender Out Paroled Child Molester Is Back, Just Two Houses Away From Victim

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Hauser Lake neighbors are mounting a protest against one of their own who pleaded guilty to molesting a girl.

After a brief prison stint, the 59-year-old man has moved back to his home - two houses away from his victim. Neighbors - furious that they were not told Mario Rios Sr. was back - are planning a protest today and Sunday in the neighborhood.

Several want Rios to move out. They also want everyone to know that Rios pleaded guilty four years ago to molesting a neighbor’s daughter when she was between the ages of 9 and 11.

Neighbors, who feel betrayed by a man they used to call a friend, now worry that Rios will re-offend. Court records show he has admitted in counseling to molesting 53 children since the mid-1950s.

His counselor called Rios “clearly a pedophile” and kicked him out of a treatment program last year following a series of reprimands, according to court records.

The father of the victim - now 16 - said his family should have been told Rios moved back. However, Idaho law prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing information about convicted sex offenders, even though they are required to register with the sheriff’s department.

“I can understand why they have rights, but what right do I have?” the victim’s father said. “I can’t even protect my family. I’m a victim in my own house.”

Legislation set to be debated during the coming session would make public a list of registered sex offenders. It also proposes to allow the offenders most likely to reoffend to be confined indefinitely in a civil commitment program.

Neighbor Carol Raffo said the proposal is a good start. She believes the law should include notification to schools and neighborhoods, much like Washington law allows.

In the meantime, she wants Rios to move.

“This is ridiculous,” Raffo said.

“This man has got to go away. He’s going to hurt somebody again and it’s going to be some little innocent kid.”

The neighborhood may get its wish. Rios’ probation officer told the man Friday he has to move.

“The (victim’s) mother was very concerned and rightfully so, and made us re-evaluate what we were doing,” said Scott Grant, a section supervisor for the state probation and parole department in Coeur d’Alene.

Attempts to reach Rios for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

Court records show Rios pleaded guilty four years ago to two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 16. Two additional charges of lewd conduct with the same girl were dismissed as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Judge Gary Haman sentenced Rios to 10 years in prison and required that he serve at least five years. Haman retained jurisdiction in the case, meaning he could reevaluate the case after Rios completed a six-month sex offender evaluation program in prison.

Rios successfully completed the program and Haman placed him on probation for five years instead of sending him back to prison. One of the conditions of Rios’ probation is that he successfully complete a sex offender treatment program.

Rios’ first attempt ended when he was dismissed last July from a Coeur d’Alene program. A log kept by the man who oversaw the program noted 37 entries for inappropriate contact with children and adult former victims, skipping counseling sessions and not completing assignments.

In a letter to Rios’ probation officer dated July 28, 1997, counselor Thomas Hearn called Rios a “pedophile” that is likely to re-offend.

“I do not think he has ever taken sex offender treatment seriously and I seriously question whether it is in the community’s best interest for Mario Rios to continue to reside in the community, based on his record of child molesting, and with his poor progress in sex offender treatment,” Hearn wrote.

Later in the letter, Hearn wrote “If he remains in the community, his risk of re-offense needs to be clearly understood.”

Haman decided Rios’ dismissal from that treatment program did not justify sending him back to prison. Instead, the judge chose to continue Rios’ probation.

Rios has since enrolled in another sex offender treatment program, Grant said. He has been in the program for five months and is making progress, Grant said.

Those planning this weekend’s picket say creating awareness is one of the goals of the protest.

“Protecting our children is the most important job we have as adults,” said Nall, who plans to carry a sign during today’s protest.

Not everyone is sure that forcing Rios to move to another neighborhood is the answer.

Rich Kjos, who lives across the street from Rios, said he and his wife are nervous that a convicted sex offender lives across the street. They have reviewed personal safety practices with their 10-year-old daughter, but worry about where Rios will go.

“You always wonder where’s he going to go,” Kjos said. “He’s got to move to someone else’s neighborhood.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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