KINDRED, N.D. (KVLY) Residents in Kindred reached out to our Whistle Blower Hotline after they say a sex offender moved into their neighborhood without his threat level determined yet. Meaning he could be deemed a high-risk offender, but that might not be decided for months.
"This process is ridiculous! How can a person just come here and they say, just wait and we'll tell you how bad he is," Shawn Johnson said.
Receiving the notification from the Cass County Sheriff's Department that a sex offender moved to town was not what people in Kindred wanted to see.
"It angers me. I mean, that's like putting a rattlesnake pit in your backyard. It's just waiting for something bad to happen," Johnson said.
People especially upset are those like Johnson, who lives just down the street from the Minnesota-based offender, Eugene Kleinwachter.
Kleinwachter was convicted in 1996 for multiple sexual assault charges after he impregnated an underage family member and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
"It's just the thought of having him in the community makes you sad that they have to be there," Johnson said.
But what made Johnson and his neighbors scratch their heads the most was that the offender's risk-level was listed as 'undetermined.'
"I mean, we know it's bad obviously he's registered, but the categorization of it is left unknown and we won't know for months," Johnson said.
Kleinwachter was deemed a low-risk offender in Minnesota, but that doesn't mean he will be the same here. However, determining how big of a threat he is to the public could take as long as four months.
"Basically their process is broken. There is no standard to relocate these people from state to state, which seems to me that there's something wrong with that. Why could another state just give us their issues without asking," Johnson said.
But this loophole doesn't only exist for those who move from state to state, but also offenders who don't serve any jail time, as well as those who don't serve an extended jail sentence.
And despite popular belief, it's not the Cass County Sheriff's Department who determines what an offender's risk level is, rather the Sex Offender Risk Assessment Committee (SORAC) who are with the Attorney General in Bismarck.
"So, in those times when we're waiting to get that risk level assessment back, it is somewhat of a hindrance for us," Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said.
"I think there should be an application process for somebody like this to move into a new community. Because right now, we are stuck with a person they have not categorized yet. We have to wait months for that to happen. So basically they placed him here, and they say we'll tell you how bad it is," Johnson said.
But Jahner says the best way to speed up the process is simply just state's having their paperwork better prepared.
"It really comes down to how efficient can states be amongst each other to get this information from state to state. So, that the state that this person is going to reside in can make a quicker assessment in regards to their risk level," Jahner said.
And because offenders can travel outside county and state lines for certain amounts of time without giving a heads up, a sex offender could be in or traveling through your neighborhood or town at any given time. And that has Jahner urging you to remain vigilant at all times, not just because an offender moves to your block.
And although Kleinwachter's assessment hasn't been done yet, Jahner says that doesn't mean the sheriff's department isn't monitoring and checking in with him or any undetermined offender.
"They have to go somewhere, it's just unfortunate that he ended up here," Johnson said.