CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A review of the Rhode Island Sex Offender Notification system by Target 12 revealed there are several sex offenders living in three different motels, but the law does not require the business owners to alert their other customers.
Carolyn Medeiros, Executive Director of Alliance for Safe Communities, called that a hole in the state’s notification law.
“No one who’s stopping for a night or two is going to check the website,” Medeiros said. “They would have to know we have a registry and be looking to narrow down the address of exactly where [their motel is].”
According to the notification website, Paul Stieber, 47, and Daniel Leighty, 52, live next door to each other at The Sand Dollar Inn in Westerly. Both men are Level II Offenders, which under state law means they both are “a moderate risk to re-offend.”
A Target 12 undercover camera recorded Stieber walking in and out of the motel office and a utility room, with cleaning supplies and a broom.
A woman who was sitting at the front desk would not give us her name but acknowledged Stieber and Leighty live at the motel. She said police told her they were sex offenders.
She did not answer a question about whether Stieber has access to multiple rooms, and she was brief when asked if he worked at the motel.
“No,” she said.
To the question, would she want to know if a sex offender was living in a motel where her family was staying, she said, “Of course.”
But she did not say whether or not she alerts her tenants about Stieber and Leighty.
Parole Board Chairperson Laura Pisaturo said the law restricts sex offenders from living within 300 feet of schools, and working in certain businesses frequented by children. But the job of notifying the public where they live is up to law enforcement.
“The law does not put this responsibility [of notifying the public about sex offenders] on private citizens,” Pisaturo said. “So, motel or other homeowners are not responsible.”
Medeiros said while the motel owner is not required to notify their other guests, they should.
“It doesn’t make it morally and ethically right,” Medeiros said. “And I don’t think Rhode Islanders are going to be happy knowing that is what’s happening. Most likely those motel residents have no idea what [their] background is.”
North of Westerly, the registry indicates Level III Offender Roger Greene is living in The Wickford Motor Inn.
Greene was released from the ACI after serving 14 years for 1st and 2nd Degree Child Molestation of a 10-year old girl. Level III Offenders are said to be “a high risk to re-offend.”
“I did not commit the crime,” Greene told us. “I’m not a risk.”
He said he works as a handyman at the motel in exchange for not paying rent. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head when asked if his motel neighbors know about his criminal background.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Like I said, I’m no threat to anybody.”
A man who said he was the owner of the North Kingstown motel said he would reconsider whether it was a good idea to allow Greene to live there.
Medeiros wondered if Greene’s job as a handyman or Stieber’s possible job cleaning rooms, provide them access to all the motels’ rooms.
“That’s shocking information you’re giving me,” Medeiros said. “There’s no doubt in my mind the other [customers] should know.”
According to the sex offender notification website, a Level II Offender lives at the Rumford Motor Inn in East Providence. The site stated a level III Offender lived there too, but he was arrested in late August as a probation violator.
A man who identified himself as the motel manager, but would not provide his name, told us he did not know the two men were sex offenders.
He also said neither man lived there anymore.
A sex offender is required to notify police of their new address within 24 hours of moving. The Rumford Motor Inn address is still listed as the Level II Offender’s residence on the state website.
State Senator Frank Lombardi, a democrat from Cranston’s District 26, sponsored a bill related to notification rules for sex offenders living in homeless shelters. The measure has yet to gain passage.
In his opinion, there’s little doubt who should notify motel customers if sex offenders are living in a room near them.
“Hotel management,” Lombardi said. “It’s not a big burden. There’s always a cost-benefit analysis and I think the benefits far outweigh the costs in this one. It’s about safety.”
Sex offender notification requirements and websites vary from state to state, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation website has a page that includes links to every state.
Clicking on Rhode Island brings you to a Sex Offender Fact Sheet, but you cannot move past that page unless you tap “agree” after a paragraph that states, “Any person who uses information on this website to threaten, intimidate or harass any registered offender may be subject to criminal prosecution.”
After that, you have access to the state’s registered sex offenders’ names. Finding addresses can be narrowed down by zip code or community.
Revealing whether or not any of the offenders live near you would require a click on each offender. Their addresses could then be cross-referenced to where you live.