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Convicted child sex offender now lives less than a mile from where he kidnapped a 10-year-old boy and sexually assaulted him

Neighbors and lawmakers in Rhode Island are outraged that a man convicted of raping and sexually assaulted a child now lives less than a mile from where he abducted a 10-year-old boy.

WJAR reports that Richard Garner now lives in Providence, less than a mile from the deli where he abducted the boy in 1988. Garner, now 51, had reportedly driven to Providence from Massachusetts in a stolen car, and grabbed the little boy from a deli on Broad Street and Washington Avenue, then drove the boy in his car to a secluded area and sexually assaulted him.

A month later, Garner reportedly abducted and sexually assaulted or molested two more boys in Rhode Island, ages 6 and 10, on the same day. He reportedly tied the 6-year-old boy to a tree and left him there for hours alone, before returning to molest him. He later dropped the boy off at home in a car.

At the time, Garner was out on bail after being charged with sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boy in 1987, the Patriot Ledger reports. He was apprehended and arrested the day he kidnapped the 10- and 6-year-old boys. In 1989 he was convicted of numerous crimes connected to the kidnapping and assaults, including first-degree child molestation and assault with a dangerous weapon.

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According to the Patriot Ledger, Garner was sentenced to 190 year in prison, but he was released last week from a treatment facility. Because he was convicted in 1989, Garner does not appear in a public database.

“It’s so scary that the law permitted that the same guy who committed that crime coming back to the same community,” Representative Grace Diaz (D-Providence) told NBC 10 .

“And that may be the way to do some legislation to prohibit the person from coming back to the same place where they committed a crime.”

“It’s even scarier to know that he’s actually done stuff around here,” Alyssa Diaz, now a neighbor of Garner’s, told WJAR.

Richard Corley, who was Garner’s public defender in 1989, told the Patriot Ledger that Garner was sexually abused as a child and had a psychological condition, arguing that he was not criminally responsible for the heinous acts. Because testimony about the psychological condition had been excluded from Garner’s trial, the Patriot Ledger reports, the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1992.

“I know he had a lot of problems, and that was part of the defense that was presented,” Corley told the news outlet. “I believe everyone has a chance to overcome difficulties in their younger life and re-enter society.”

The ACLU reportedly released a statement, obtained by WJAR, addressing Garner’s housing situation. It reads, in part:

“While we understand the concerns that have been raised by Washington Park residents about the presence of Richard Gardner in their neighborhood, the law is clear that Mr. Gardner has a right to live there. The evidence is also clear: housing stability is one of the most effective ways to prevent recidivism. Moving ex-offenders around and putting up barriers to stable housing does nothing to protect public safety. To the contrary, such actions only make rehabilitation and oversight of offenders more difficult. Integrating ex-offenders into communities – rather than ostracizing them – is one of the best things neighbors and policymakers alike can do to promote prosocial behavior and thus public safety.”

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[Feature image: WJAR video screenshot]