The number of Level 3 sex offenders moving into Brainerd and how that will affect downtown businesses were the main concerns discussed Tuesday during a community notification meeting held at the Brainerd Police Department.
Mark Bliven from the Department of Corrections (DOC) facilitated the meeting concerning three Level 3 sex offenders — Jerry Lee Ferrier, 42; Christopher Eugene Wheeler, 39; and Christopher Robert Roehl, 49 — who will move into the same building on the 600 block of Laurel Street in downtown Brainerd. Bliven said housing for the three offenders is temporary until they find a more suitable, permanent type of residence.
Concern from the audience of about 25, which included Brainerd City Council members Mary Koep and Gary Scheeler, was the high number of Level 3 sex offenders moving into the city.
Koep said shoppers in downtown Brainerd usually have children with them and with three offenders living there people will be afraid to go downtown.
Bliven said it’s quite unusual for three offenders to get out of prison around the same time and move into the same city but that’s just the way it happened. Bliven said it would be a better situation to have the three more spread out but the housing on the 600 block of Laurel Street was the only option for all three offenders. Bliven said the probation agents worked with the offenders for months on finding a suitable home and looked at all the options but the downtown Brainerd option was the only one that worked out.
Bliven said the DOC has to help the offenders find housing and are told by the courts to let the offenders out of prison and into society.
“It’s not always a good choice,” said Bliven on having the three offenders in the same building. “But what’s good with the location is its near the police department and the sheriff’s office. And the probation agents are near here so they can keep a good eye on them.”
Brian Maturi, one of the probation agents, said there are probably more dangerous predatory offenders, Level 1 or Level 2, who are more dangerous living in the same place.
“We are aware that they are there but we don’t want people to be scared,” Maturi said. “It’s our job to make sure they are doing everything they can to stay out of prison ... and contributing to society.”
Ed Menk of E L Menk Jewelers, located on the 600 block of Laurel Street, was concerned about the public relations of the businesses in downtown Brainerd having the offenders living there. Menk said the downtown businesses have worked hard over the years building a rapport with the community and having predatory offenders living there will only hurt businesses.
Bliven said he understood Menk’s concerns and said he could work with the Brainerd Police Department to discuss on how much information to give out to the exact address where the offenders will be living.
“Our main concern is public safety,” said Bliven. “We don’t use a specific address as we don’t want people going in there vandalizing their place.”
Bliven said all three will be have intense supervision.
Ferrier, who is scheduled to be released from prison April 11, is 5 feet 9 inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes. Ferrier has a history of sexual conduct with juvenile female victims between the ages of 9-11. The offender was known to his victims.
Ferrier was convicted with two criminal sexual conduct felonies. In 1992, Ferrier engaged in first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 11-year-old female victim on multiple occasions in Wadena County. The contact included penetration. Ferrier received 86 months in prison, with a stay of execution of 30 years of supervised probation.
Then in 1999, he was engaged in second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 9-year-old female victim in Crow Wing County on multiple occasions. Contact included fondling and penetration. He was sentenced to 39 months in prison, with 10 years of conditional release.
Ferrier also was charged in 2012 with disorderly conduct for engaging in harassing and lewd behavior with female acquaintances age 16 to adults. He was not convicted, and instead received supervision accountability time for this behavior, reported the DOC.
Roehl, 49, who was released from prison Tuesday, is 5 feet 11 inches tall with brown hair and blue eyes. Roehl has a history of sexual conduct with juvenile male and female victims between the ages of 2-18, where fondling was involved. The offender was known to his victims. Bliven said Roehl was not charged for all of the offenses with children between the ages of 2-18.
In 2003, Roehl engaged in second-degree sexual conduct with a 9-year-old male victim in Crow Wing County on multiple occasions. Contact included fondling. Bliven said that he used his position of authority to gain compliance. Roehl received probation for the offense with a 21 month stay of execution. He later violated the terms of his probation and his sentence was executed.
Then in 2009, Roehl engaged in sexual contact with a 12-year-old male victim on multiple occasions. Contact included fondling and he again took advantage of position of authority to gain compliance. He was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct, but not convicted of the offense.
Wheeler, who was released from prison Tuesday, is 5 feet 5 inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes. Wheeler has a history of sexual conduct with juvenile female victims between the ages of 10-15. The offender was known to his victims.
In 1988, Wheeler, then a juvenile, was convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in Crow Wing County. Wheeler used force and threatened the victim, whom he knew. Bliven said that Wheeler was put on probation. In 1991, he was convicted of sexual conduct with girls ages 13-15 where he took advantage of a girl who was sleeping. Again he knew the girl. He was given a 36-month prison sentence with a stay of execution.
In 1998, he was convicted of second-degree sexual assault with having sex with a 10-year-old he knew multiple times, with force and he threatened the girl. Wheeler was sentenced to 97 months in prison, with a third of that sentence as a probationary period.
The DOC reported that since Jan. 1, there are 17,400 predatory offenders in Minnesota, and 272 of them are Level 3 offenders. Level 3 is the highest level where the offenders are deemed most likely to repeat an offense.
There are 198 predatory offenders in Crow Wing County, which includes 121 offenders with a Brainerd mailing address; 133 in Cass County; 121 in Morrison County; 132 in Mille Lacs County; and 49 in Aitkin County.
There are five Level 3 predatory offenders living in Brainerd: Wheeler, Ferrier, Roehl, Brandon Keith Churchill and Joshua Paul Rinde.