Sex Offenders Set Up Camp

The Julia Tuttle becomes a colony. Politicians pass the buck.

There is abundant evidence that residency restrictions do nothing to reduce sex crimes against children. For one thing, the vast majority of sex offenses are not committed by strangers: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nine of 10 victims under the age of 18 know their abusers, and 34 percent were family members. And while residency restrictions target those who have already offended, most sex offenses — 87 percent — are committed by individuals with no prior records.

On top of that, there is reason to believe that residency restrictions actually push sex offenders further underground. "We know that criminals are more likely to resume a life of crime when they have instability in their life, when they lack social and family support, and when they lack employment," points out Jill Levenson, an assistant professor of human services at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Florida DOC statistics chart a steady increase in the number of sex offenders who have fled probation and whose whereabouts are now unknown. Statewide, the number of absconders has tripled in the past three years, but in Miami-Dade, the increase is almost tenfold since the 2,500-foot ordinance went into effect in 2005. In that year, the DOC recorded three absconders; this year so far, at least 22 sex offenders have gone missing in Miami-Dade.

Jacek Gancarz
Jacek Gancarz

At least two of the those were assigned to the Julia Tuttle. Carlos DeNacimiento, who pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old girl, and Humberto Danetra, convicted of exposing himself to two 13-year-old boys, were, like the others, assigned to live under the causeway upon their release from prison. Unlike the others, they declined to do so. Both offenders told their probation officers they would report to the location; neither was seen again.

"Sometimes there's a perception that those of us who oppose residency laws are advocating for sex offenders," Levenson says. "We're all on the same side — which is the side of public safety."


Around 7 p.m. on a recent Sunday, a car pulls in under the bridge and a rare thing happens: A woman steps out. Bending down and reaching across the driver's seat, she straightens up again with an armful of supplies — a small cooler, paper plates, and a package wrapped in plastic. The bundle nearly reaches her chin. It's Big Man's wife.

Since arriving a week ago, Big Man has made a place for himself under the bridge. He sleeps on a mottled white sofa that abuts Ricky Ortiz's side of the shelf. He has set up his things — a few pairs of shoes, a stack of clean clothes, some toiletries, a microwave, and a tattered Bible.

Big Man's wife smiles as he climbs down the ladder, smiling back, and takes large, bounding steps toward her. They embrace, and then his eyes move from hers to the food. "Go heat it up in the microwave," she tells him. He relieves her of the bundle and dutifully mounts the ladder again.

"He done tore up three pairs of shoes, 'cause he gotta climb up and down this wall here, and that's something he's not used to — he's a heavy man. So I had to get some rubber shoes so he can go up and down," she says, watching his clumsy ascent.

Big Man's wife (both requested that their names be withheld) is neatly dressed, with an ample frame and a soft face. One front tooth is capped in gold, and when she smiles, it flashes. As soon as Big Man vanishes into the gloom above the embankment, her smile disappears with him.

"Look at this place!" she says angrily. "There's no running water to take a shower; there's no toilets.... My husband can't work now; nobody's going to hire him. So I have to do the providing."

She drives down from her job in Boca Raton almost every night to take care of her husband. "I come down here, I do his laundry, make sure he's got a hot meal — because he can't cook. How's he gonna eat?"

Big Man emerges from the darkness and descends the ladder, paper plate in hand, gnawing on a chicken wing. His wife eyes the food disapprovingly: "Look how my baby got to eat — everything dried out from the microwave."

Later the couple climbs into her car and drives over to the water. They reappear after 15 minutes, when Big Man hops out, grabs the cooler, and vanishes with his wife back into the shadows.

"Big Man's getting cookie," someone says cheerfully.

A few weeks ago, the generator conked out. Wiese and Ortiz took it apart, piece by piece, until they had dismantled it entirely. They put it back together, and it still didn't work.

Eventually Ortiz was able to make good on the manufacturer's warranty and wrangle a new one, but on a recent night, most of the bridge is shrouded in darkness anyway; everyone has run out of money to pay for gas. The mood is glum. Wiese sports a black eye that Ortiz gave him — a money dispute, Wiese says. Big Man has finished off a decent amount of vodka, and the roar of his profanities echoes off the concrete from all directions. "I'm getting real tired of that guy," one man mumbles wearily as he sits on a crate beside his tent, staring idly at a candle and drinking a Miller High Life. "That's my last one," he says, nodding at the candle. "When that bitch goes out ..."

On top of everything, another offender arrived tonight. His parents had driven him under the bridge and spent the afternoon building him a little wooden house with a canvas roof. He's still in shock, the men say.

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2 comments
st.jude07
st.jude07

every case is not the same.my case in the scene was only one  character witness living with family,and the night of arrest babysitting my 2 children,while father suspect was working overtime in a camera with many people shoppping at a Albertsons in the 1993,45 minutes away from home.oldest re-canted arounf 5 years later and notarized affidavitt,copied to Broward county courthouse but rejected as case was closed.but my daughter said father was not in house only Jerry Barr.this is ignorance of laws,and limitations for filing a 3.850 which I did not know nor public defender tell me of this or consequences.strong alibi,witness and suspect,no physical evidence,victim later remembers detail info. that father had nothing to do with accusation.like I said everyone who convicted of indecent assault or abuse,has another story  that court system neglected to believe.dont judge the book by its cover

 
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