Monday, March 10, 2008

Sex Offender Back In Jail; Simmons charged with failing to notify Connecticut police of move


Douglas Simmons Handout/Staff photo

By Margo Sullivan
Staff Writer

DERRY, N.H. — At least for now, Derry parents can stop worrying that convicted sex offender Douglas Simmons might return unannounced to the East Broadway apartment where he lived briefly earlier this year.

Connecticut police said yesterday that Simmons is under lock and key at Hartford Correctional Center, where he is being held on $50,000 bail. Hartford police arrested him on March 1, according to Nancy Mulroy, the department's public information officer.

"It was pretty basic," Mulroy said. "The police located him and took him into custody without incident."

Simmons was arrested on a charge of failing to notify the Connecticut sex offender registry that he had moved to Derry, according to Trooper William Tate, public information officer for the Connecticut State Police. He is due in a Connecticut court on April 1 to answer to a felony charge of violating the registry's regulation, Tate said.

Simmons, 47, moved to 71 East Broadway, Apt. 3, in Derry in late January after serving 22 years in prison for the kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Michelle Spencer in Norwich, Conn. He strangled the girl with a phone cord and then sexually assaulted her body.

His move to Derry ignited a public furor among parents who were concerned that he was living within a mile of three schools, a park and a town library.

After the outcry, Simmons moved back to Connecticut. But due to a little-known facet of New Hampshire's sex offender registry, he still was allowed to return to Derry for up to five days at a time without informing police. He had been living with his fiancee and her two teenage children at the East Broadway apartment.

Derry police Lt. Barry Charewicz said police had not been checking the apartment building in recent weeks to see if Simmons had returned for visits because he would not have been breaking any law if he came for a few days.

"There's no law he couldn't come into Derry," he said.

Even though Simmons is no longer in Derry, town councilors continue to discuss an ordinance that would prevent sex offenders from living near schools and playgrounds. Twenty states have laws to stop registered sex offenders from living near schools and playgrounds, but New Hampshire doesn't. Five New Hampshire cities and towns have adopted their own ordinances.

On Tuesday, the Derry Town Council heard from Amanda Grady of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, who said such restrictions often result in sex offenders failing to register at all.

Still, Councilor Kevin Coyle said the council is leaning toward adopting some sort of sex offender housing regulations. That discussion is expected to resume March 18.

State lawmakers also are taking steps to strengthen the state's sex offender registry. On Wednesday, the House approved a bill that would revise the registry law to list more charges, classify offenders in three categories and provide more details. That would address one of the chief complaints surrounding the Simmons incident — that the registry only showed his kidnapping conviction while omitting the murder.

Right now, there are 25 registered sex offenders in Derry. Thirteen others are required to register with the state but are not on the public list. None probably have a record of past offenses so serious as Simmons, Derry police Chief Edward Garone has said.

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