Editor’s note: This is part of a series examining the issue of sex offenders living in nursing homes. Check back on our websites this week for more, and pick up Sunday’s Dayton Daily News for a special report.
Registered sex offenders in Ohio aren’t supposed to live within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center, but the I-Team found six nursing homes currently housing nine offenders that are next door, across the street or around the corner from school properties.
That includes a Springfield nursing home resident who has legally lived near Lagonda Elementary School for two years despite convictions for touching young girls, including a 10-year-old.
George Pistner, 72, is allowed to live in close proximity to a school because his crime occurred in 1999, prior to the state’s 2003 law that included a residency restriction.
Pistner, who lives at Springfield Manor, was convicted in Florida of multiple counts of lewd or lascivious contact with a victim under 16, and must register as a sex offender for life. There is no indication in his file that he is not able to get around.
Springfield Manor declined comment.
The proximity to schools is just one potential danger identified by our investigation of nearly 140 sex offenders who live in 43 Ohio nursing homes.
Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said common-sense exceptions are needed for some offenders who no longer pose a threat to the community because of their medical conditions.
An 81-year-old resident of Good Shepherd Village Nursing Home in Springfield, who recently came off the registry, has advanced Alzheimer’s, Kelly said. The nursing home is around to the corner from Warder Park-Wayne Elementary.
Another resident there who is still on the registry has suffered a stroke and is paralyzed on one side of his body, according to sheriff’s records. Neither man is barred from living near a school per their specific registration requirements, Kelly said. Good Shepherd did not return calls for comment.
“These individuals are not physically capable of getting out of their rooms or their beds,” Kelly said. “Some of these laws, they had good intentions, but to sentence someone to a life of registration … there is a point when these people are not able to even care for themselves let alone come down and register.”
The 1,000-foot limit is a civil (not criminal) offense under Ohio law. If law enforcement becomes aware of a violation, they refer the matter the a local prosecutor who can issue a civil order forcing the person to move. In most of these cases, prosecutors have decided not to pursue such action because of medical circumstances.
Former Butler County state Rep. Courtney Combs pushed for legislation to better notify nursing home residents about sex offenders living in their facilities, but said he never thought about the proximity of these homes to schools.
“We’ve got children we should be taking care of, absolutely, and the elderly we should be taking care of absolutely; and you’ve got a sex offender who’s in the nursing home within a 1,000 feet of a school? That’s double jeopardy,” he said.
Most nursing homes are not locked facilities.
“There is still a general impression among the public that if someone is in a nursing home they are in a nursing home like all the time,” said Bev Laubert, Ohio’s ombudsman for long-term care. “But people have rights and people can get out and walk around. If they smoke then they’re going to be outside. That’s something that ought to be considered, I believe.”
Neighbors say it’s concerning to have offenders living so close to schools.
“At the end of the day, if they’re going to let him live that close, they need to be keeping a really close eye on him,” said Dominic Maddalena, who across the street from Springfield Manor. “Every morning there’s tons of kids walking to school.”