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April 12, 2014

Group protests sex offenders at hotel

But Dept. of Corrections says owner has canceled agreement to house recent parolees

TERRE HAUTE — A small group of people protested outside one Terre Haute motel Saturday, just about a week after news broke of an alleged child molestation occurring on its premises.

About 10 people — including some children — stood on the sidewalk by EconoLodge motel in the 400 block of Margaret Avenue in Terre Haute, with signs that tell passersby to “Beware Violent Child Molesters Live @ Motel.” One sign, held by a teenager, said “I’m a child. I’m not safe.”

The protest comes days after it was reported that a convicted sex offender allegedly grabbed and molested a 5-year-old child, who was staying at the motel with family. Timothy R. Blazier, 49, appeared in court Monday and is facing multiple felony charges, officials said.

Bev Merritt, one of the organizers of the protest, said the group picketed for three hours Friday and three hours Saturday. The Tribune-Star was told that the grandmother of the 5-year-old child was among those who were picketing.

The protesters said they were also unhappy about the hotel housing certain sex offenders recently released from prison. Released offenders, Merritt said, should be in a halfway house.

Describing the protesters as just “mothers and grandparents,” Merritt said they aim to warn people — particularly those coming from the interstate — before checking in.

“I have a passion for protecting kids,” Merritt said.

Last week, Amy Kent, media liaison for the Indiana Department of Correction, told the Tribune-Star that the franchise owner of the motel did have a previous verbal agreement with the DOC to house the offenders, but she also said that the EconoLodge owner has decided to end the agreement.

It was also reported that Blazier, however, was paying for his own room at the Econolodge and was no longer with the DOC Assist program at the time of the incident.

The Tribune-Star requested comment from representatives of EconoLodge in person by visiting the motel and by phone, but the requests were not answered. Contact information was also given to a motel staff member, who told the Tribune-Star “no comment” and said that the person in charge was out of town.

One of the protesters, Mary Page, said it is important to inform guests and community members if convicted sex offenders are staying in a hotel/motel, so the potential customers can make informed decisions.

“I understand that they have to house convicted felons somewhere, but ... hotel guests should be made aware,” Page said.

“If they’re going to house them at a hotel, guests need to be informed,” and necessary protection for children should be in place, she added.

She said the community has a right to be made aware.

“I have a right to know who is staying next door to me,” she said.

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