News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

April 7, 2014

Where we house released sex offenders

Incident at motel reveals DOC system for housing those convicted for sex crimes

TERRE HAUTE — A convicted sex offender who reportedly grabbed a 5-year-old child last week and allegedly molested the child at a Terre Haute motel faces multiple felony charges.

Timothy R. Blazier, 49, appeared via video in Vigo Superior Court 1 on Monday, when he was charged with class-A felony child molesting and attempted child molesting; class-B felony criminal deviate conduct and attempted rape; two counts of class-C felony criminal confinement; class-D felony battery resulting in bodily injury; and a repeat sex offender enhancement that can add up to 10 years in prison to his sentence, if convicted.

Blazier was appointed a public defender by Judge John Roach, who set a trial date for Sept. 15.

The alleged incident occurred April 1 at the EconoLodge motel in the 400 block of Margaret Avenue in Terre Haute. According to Terre Haute Police, the child was residing at the motel with her family, and had been playing outside with a sibling when Blazier allegedly grabbed her and took her into his motel room.

The sibling immediately reported the incident to his parents, who responded to Blazier’s motel room. After the child’s stepparent banged on the room door, Blazier reportedly thrust the child out of the room, but she was not wearing any clothing from the waist down.

Police were called to the scene and found Blazier with injuries in his motel room. Police did not comment on how Blazier sustained his injuries, but said the suspect was taken to a local hospital for treatment of his injuries before being booked into the Vigo County Jail.

The child was taken to an Indianapolis hospital for treatment of her injuries. In court on Monday, the criminal charges indicated that Blazier attempted to rape the child, and also injured her by striking her in the head and ear.

As of Monday evening, there were 12 convicted sex offenders residing at the EconoLodge on Margaret Avenue, according to the Indiana Sex Offender Registry. Blazier was not among those 12.

Amy Kent, media liaison for the Indiana Department of Correction, told the Tribune-Star that DOC had a verbal agreement with the franchise owner of the motel to house certain sex offenders when they are released from prison. The DOC pays for the offenders’ housing for up to two weeks, she said, through a program called DOC Assist. During that time, the offender is expected to find employment and permanent residency.

Blazier was not, however, on the DOC Assist program, Kent said. DOC records show that he was released from the New Castle Correctional Facility on Sept. 8, 2013, and went to the EconoLodge in Terre Haute, where he resided for two months before finding housing. However, he returned to the EconoLodge in February 2014, paying for his own room.

Kent explained that when DOC releases an inmate, the person must have a place to reside as a condition of release. It can be difficult for sex offenders to find housing because of the state restrictions that sexually violent predators and offenders against children must follow.

According to Parole Stipulations for Sex Offenders, the offender “must not reside, visit or be within 1,000 feet of public parks with playgrounds, pools, rides, and or nature trails; schools, daycare centers, public swimming pools, public beaches, theaters or similar locations where children are reasonably expected to gather or congregate, without the express prior written approval of a parole agent.”

In Terre Haute, that leaves very few motels as an option for temporary housing, said Special Deputy Bernard Burns of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department.

Burns maintains the county’s sex offender website, a statewide database that lists the address and photos of people convicted of sex crimes who are currently required to be on the registry. He told the Tribune-Star that the EconoLodge is the only motel located in the city that fits into the 1,000 feet requirement that must be followed by “sexually violent predators” and “offenders against children.”

Burns noted that the state law does not have the same residency restriction for people classified simply as “sex offenders,” so people with that designation can live at any motel or location, but they are also monitored by officials according to the terms of their release.

Offenders who have temporary residency, such as at a motel, must check in with Burns every seven days to keep their registry status current. Offenders with permanent residences must check in every 90 days, and others must check in annually or re-register if they change residences, he said.

A person’s requirement to be on the registry can also expire, Burns said, though some are required to be registered for life.

Blazier is required to register for life. He was sentenced in Clinton County in December 2010 to serve three years in prison for failure to register as a sex offender. He was sentenced in Fountain County in June 2007 to serve six years for child molesting. He was also sentenced to prison in Clinton County in November 1998 on two counts of battery.

Kent told the Tribune-Star on Monday that the EconoLodge owner has decided to end the housing agreement with the DOC. There were four parolees on the DOC Assist program that must be relocated.

Kent said she did not know how the EconoLodge came to participate in the DOC Assist program, but she noted that local parole officers or law enforcement can recommend a location for the program based on the requirements of the housing stipulations for convicted sex offenders.

A Tribune-Star request for comment from the EconoLodge owner was not answered after a visit to the motel, with contact information left with motel staff, who said that the owner was out of town.

Kent also told the Tribune-Star that the state has DOC Assist arrangements with facilities in eight other Indiana cities — Madison, South Bend, Elkhart, Fort Wayne, Gary, Indianapolis, Evansville and Kokomo. It is possible to have more than one site in each town, and those sites can be shelters, motels, apartments or other structures that fit the state criteria. As of Monday, there were 10 parolees in the DOC Assist program statewide, Kent said.

Guests who check into a motel may not know that they are staying at a location where sex offenders are being housed because there is no requirement for a business to notify the public.

The best way for the public to find out where sex offenders are located is to go to the statewide online database maintained by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association. In Vigo County, that website is at www.sheriffalerts.com/in/Vigo.

Burns encourages people to check their addresses on the public website. People can also register with the website to receive email alerts that are automatic whenever a sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

“I think that is an excellent public tool that I would guess is underutilized,” Burns told the Tribune-Star. “There is a link at the top of the page to register. It’s confidential and they will get automatic updates if someone moves into their neighborhood.”

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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