MINNESOTA LAKE — A sex offender notification meeting in Minnesota Lake Thursday night went as all of the Level III offender notification meetings go: Fear, frustration and no choices possible by the community.
About 150 people from the Faribault County town of 600 residents came to the school to hear Sarah Hustad of the state Department of Corrections explain that a predatory offender is set to move to the town when he's released from prison next week.
After a presentation by Hustad, an increasingly frustrated crowd asked questions and didn't get the answers they wanted to hear as they were told about 38-year-old Jela Deshaun Jones, his history of crime and his intent to live with a family member in Minnesota Lake.
Jones was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison in 2000 for having sexual contact and intercourse with girls he knew age 12 to 17. The crimes happened in Le Sueur County. He got out in 2010 but was sent back to prison four times since for violating terms of his release, including for drinking alcohol and for having porn. He was not re-arrested for any sex crimes.
Hustad gave a long list of statistics to the audience about the relatively low recidivism rate for released sex offenders (3 percent) and stressed Jones never was arrested for assaulting anyone he didn't already have a relationship with.
"The most dangerous offenders are the ones who haven't been caught yet," Hustad said. "There are sex offenders living all over the place."
She said the law permits those released from prison to live in communities, work and live free of harassment. Jones will be under intense supervision when he is released, including wearing an GPS monitor and being forbidden from having any contact with minors.
But that supervision won't last long. In about six weeks Jones will have served all of his sentence and will be completely free of any requirements other than having to register with law enforcement as a sex offender if and when he changes addresses.
"I know it's not what you'd like to hear," Hustad said.
Police Chief Tom Elmer said that even when Jones is off supervision Elmer will keep "a pretty close eye on him." But Elmer admitted that other than a few part time officers he is the entire police force and that the town doesn't have full-time coverage.
Many in the crowd asked questions and posed scenarios of possible horrors of having Jones in the community.
One younger resident, though, seemed to indicate residents don't appear to be in great danger. "Minnesota Lake is just old people," he said, receiving a not-very-warm response.
Finally, one person asked the question many likely were thinking. "Is there anything we can do as a community to stop this?" she asked of Jones moving in.
"No," Hustad said.