2018 FIFA World Cup Fan Guide ⚽
Where to watch FOX6 News, Real Milwaukee during World Cup Soccer ⚽

Underground and off the grid: Lawmakers work to solve issue of homeless sex offenders

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WAUKESHA COUNTY -- With his green jacket, shirt and tie, Mitchell Stupica is hard to miss.

Mitchell Stupica

Mitchell Stupica

"I’m always moving around. I’m homeless," Stupica said.

Many people in Milwaukee wish he would just go away. The evidence is in the maps -- maps that show where convicted sex offenders can live, and where they cannot. They show safe zone perimeters around schools, parks, playgrounds, daycare centers, trails and churches. Each municipality makes its own.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch

Rep. Joel Kleefisch

"Some are so restrictive, they've been called unconstitutional." said Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc).

Some are so restrictive, they leave sex offenders with nowhere to live. But the landscape is more complex than that.

By law in Wisconsin, when sex offenders are set free, they have to be released into the county where they lived when they committed their crime. That is to prevent certain areas of the state from becoming dumping grounds.

It became a battle between communities in each county to come up with the most restrictive residency maps to keep the sex offenders out of their neighborhoods -- except they're still in the neighborhood.

"I don't want a sex offender living next door to me. But I'm twice as afraid of not knowing where that person is. Not knowing also makes it difficult for law enforcement to know who to notify," Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) said.

Sex offender residency restrictions in Milwaukee

Sex offender residency restrictions in Milwaukee

Psychologist Anna Salter says sex offenders are much more dangerous if the state releases them into homelessness.

Anna Salter

Anna Salter

"Anyone who's homeless has an unstable lifestyle. When they don't have anything to lose, they act out sexually," Salter said.

Salter said there is no evidence to show that restricting where sex offenders can live has any impact on public safety.

"Sex offenders don't get victims through geographic distribution. They get victims through avocations and vocations," Salter said.

Bob Peterson

Bob Peterson

Attorney Bob Peterson, who has represented hundreds in court, says it goes beyond that.

"Residency restrictions don't enhance safety. They, in fact, create a situation where the community is more at risk," Peterson said.

Both Salter and Peterson say being forced into homelessness makes it nearly impossible for offenders to find a job and make a successful transition back into society.

"They're basically doomed to fail," said Peterson.

Kenneth McDonald

Kenneth McDonald

Ken McDonald

Ken McDonald

Case in point: Ken McDonald.  FOX6 News spoke with him in jail after he was arrested on his first full day of freedom after serving 11 years for molesting two little girls. His mother and brothers all live in areas where he is prohibited -- and neither of the homeless shelters in Waukesha where he was released can accept a sex offender right off the street. So McDonald found a school and stood there until police came and took him back into custody.

"I don't know where anything is in Waukesha,” McDonald said from his cell. “You're taking someone who don't know Waukesha very well and dumping them into it saying, 'Here you go.'  I just couldn't go on with no place to go."

McDonald is now back in prison for another two years for violating terms of his release.

Kenneth McDonald

Kenneth McDonald

Since 2008, the city of Sheboygan has had one of the most restrictive ordinances in the state -- 2,000 feet in effect in the entire city. In March, the Common Council bumped it back to 1,500 feet over concerns 2,000 may not stand up in court, but most of the city is still off limits.

From the start, however, Sheboygan has had an unusual approach. Sex offenders can petition the Common Council for a waiver.

Sex offender residency restrictions in Sheboygan

Sex offender residency restrictions in Sheboygan

Billy Thiel

Billy Thiel

"We get to actually listen to each case and really make a judgment call on it," Billy Thiel, Sheboygan alderman said.

FOX6 News reviewed the votes for the past five years. Of the nearly 250 waiver petitions, 70 percent were approved.

Goyke, who is a Democrat, and Kleefisch, who is a Republican, are now reaching across the aisle to address the residency issue. With more than 400 sex offenders homeless in the state, Kleefisch says it is an issue that is going to blow up if something isn’t done. They plan to introduce a bill for a uniform restriction -- to keep offenders from being corralled off the map.

"These people have been watching our children and it's time we're able to watch them back.  And the only way we can do that is with a statewide standard,” said Kleefisch.

The lawmakers understand, with the politics of fear, it is an unpopular position.

Rep. Evan Goyke

Rep. Evan Goyke

"I've watched politics really get in the way of meaningful, good policy," Goyke said.

In the meantime, Mitchell Stupica is stuck.

"I was 18. I met a young girl who was 15. Two months later, I was charged with second degree sexual assault of a minor," Stupica said.

Now 31, Stupica's probation prohibits him from leaving Milwaukee. But the city's ordinance prevents him from finding a home. There are just 55 addresses in the entire city where a sex offender can live -- and that is if they're even available.

“It's like a scarlet letter. Unless something changes or there's a different solution to this problem, it's going to get worse. And then it's going to be somebody who is a predator or a pedophile that just gives up and says, 'you know what? I might as well just rape another kid,'" said Stupica.

Stupica has found home in the Community Advocates' "Center for Self Sufficiency." The agency is helping him to find a job and rebuild his life.

13 comments

  • Michael Burke

    It’s about time lawmakers wake up to this problem. I know someone who at 18 years old had sex with a 15 year old. Yes this is wrong and they should get into some trouble. But now he has to register as a sex offender for life. This is a young man who’s not old enough to buy liquor but old enough to have his life ruined. What’s with this life sentence. I would think 5 to 10 years is long enough. If they’re going to do it again they’ll get caught and then they can be turned into a life sentence. I just think the whole blanket one sentence fits all just doesn’t work. I hope the lawmakers do something about this. Most crimes once you do your time you’re considered debt paid. I still say they need to reconsider their sentencing laws in this.

    • Mark Grayson

      very well said. I WOULD have to agree 100%. Look at the general barbaric comments that people say on this subject and u can easily see how blind and vicious people are towards registrants as a whole, and they dont even know what the persons situation was. I dont think any lawmaker would agree that the registry was meant for people like ur friend, thats what happens when power money and greed enter the equation.

    • Kayla

      so since your comment is so unintelligent and ignorant we should “brand your forehead with DUMBASS”?

    • THINK

      WOW!!! You are such an insensitive person. Think about how you would feel to have words “BRANDED” on your forehead. Does “IDIOT”, “DRUNK”, “ABUSIVE”, “HEARTLESS” have to be branded on everyone? If so, what is our world coming too? I guess there will always be people that have to hide from people like you, but hopefully, the law makers will get this right and at least allow these offenders to attempt to live a “normal” life after their prison sentence. Everyone should be allowed to have a job and a roof over their head like “normal” people. Wouldn’t it be smarter to at least know where these offenders are, and not have to worry where they are?

    • imcrazy

      You’re right, my sarcasm font wasn’t working. I shouldn’t have posted that. My apologies..

  • Kayla

    Unfortunately alot of changes need to be made, and as the first commenter said not all sex offenders should be classified into the same category. That is something else that needs addressing . The current ordinance NEEDS to be changed, bc knowing where sex offenders are actually living is a he’ll of alot better than not knowing where they are and what they are doing. Not to mention it’s not right that they have served their time and are being set up to fail. It’s such a struggle and a fight as it is most of the time when your on parole or probation and then having to face something this, forced to be homeless even though you have a job and money to live in a stable environment? It’s wrong on so many levels. My fiancée and I are currently in this situation ourselves. we both had full time jobs and the constant moving around is very tiring and draining. Hopefully the law pulls there heads out of there asses soon and fixes this soon.

  • Chrisco

    Just a thought. It would be a lot easier if one was allowed to live in a certain neighborhood. That way the whole neighborhood could keep an eye out. It is just an idea.

  • Mel

    I agree that someone labeled as sex offender when it was a consensual act, like the dumb statutory laws here that protect no one considering THE TWO TEENS DID IT CONSENSUALLY. All that does is create a FALSE record to make the parent, who is obviously inept and delusional that their child is not going to engage in sex feel better while ruining someone’s life. It should be abolished or they should be able to have it expunged if the age difference was less than 3 years. But as for the real creeps, pedos, like the creep like curly there, these are REAL sex offenders and sorry, please kill yourselves. Get your defective genes out of the gene pool and who gives a sh@/ if they do off themselves. I am sorry, these creeps should have no freedom. And if the damn state is so concerned with where they are at all times then they should create a center, not too unlike a prison that they can stay. But I am happy with handing them a euthanasia pill and saying THAT IS HOW THEY CAN TRULY repay society, by eliminating themselves from the population completely, it will have a 100% success rate and a 0% chance of them ever reoffending.

  • Derek Logue of OnceFallen

    Residency restrictions were proven time after time after time to be ineffective. What you are seeing now had already happened in places like Iowa, California, and FloriDUH. Milwaukee politicians who passed this ordinance must be that special kind of stupid.

  • Rob

    I’m a registered sex offender. My crime was very similar to Stupica’s in this article. Fortunately I live in a city that allows me to take my dog to the park to play frisbee, My wife and I go and use the tennis courts, concerts in the park, ice skating etc. I live In a beautiful old building with a lot of character which is next door to a school. I have stable housing, a well paying job which is not easy to get, I feel connected to my city. We spend quite a bit of money at local shops and restaurants, my business just one an award for the best in the city in it’s category. Since becoming a sex offender I graduated from community college, received my bachelors and now I’m finishing up my masters degree. When you give people a chance they can become important parts of the community. If I had to face situations like this in the article, I’m not sure what would have happened to me.

    • Michael Burke

      I’m glad your community gives you a second chance. Not many people are the same person now as when they were 18. What also gets me is these girls get in no trouble either. Some lie about there age and in court that doesn’t matter. They say you should have known. In the case of my friend, 3 others are in the same boat from this girl. Is that justice? 2 lost military careers and 1 has a son he can never take to school, parks, extra. Very sad and unfair to these young men.

    • BRAD

      Hi Rob. Thanks for the note.
      I too am currently on the Sex Offender List. 11 years ago I had a sexual conversation with an undercover cop posing as a teenage girl. I was guilty. I did it. It was the worst day of my life/best day of my life. I am now one of the lucky ones. I’ve gotten treatment for some addiction/sexual and porn issues. I have a fantastic professional job. A great apartment in the city with a fantastic landlord. I will be off the list in 9 years but I have a girlfriend. If we want to get a place together now we currently can’t really do it thanks to the residency restrictions. I am a lifelong resident of MKE. I love the city. I pay taxes here. I want to stay here and continue to build a family. I have the resources to buy a new home but can’t do it at this time.

      Hopefully the lawmakers will come up with some sane, common sense legislation. As an ex-offender I have no issue if the city of MKE Police Department has a listing of all registrants. That makes sense. Let them be monitored safely and effectively. All evidence points to the fact that residency restrictions not only don’t help….but they end up hurting in the end.

Comments are closed.