Former cop must be out of house today

SANDUSKY Time is up for James Fitzpatrick. He has to move out of his home today or face evicti
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Time is up for James Fitzpatrick.  He has to move out of his home today or face eviction.

A former Sandusky police officer and convicted sex offender, Fitzpatrick was released early from prison May 17.

The next day the Erie County Prosecutor's Office sent him a letter notifying him of Ohio law, which requires sex offenders to move more than 1,000 feet from any school premise.

Fitzpatrick, who resides in the 600 block Decatur St., is within 1,000 feet of Jackson Junior High School and Sandusky Central Catholic School campus.

Fitzpatrick was given 30 days to move -- today being the last day he can vacate before being evicted, according to Mary Ann Barylski, chief assistant prosecutor.

The Register visited Fitzpatrick Monday at his Decatur residence where he directed all comments to his attorney Tim Dempsey. Dempsey did not return calls asking for comment.

Even if Fitzpatrick were to file a sentence appeal, it would not hinder the law, Barylski said. The prosecutor's office is pursuing cases of two other sex offenders who did not move on time, she added.

While this Ohio law went into effect in 2005, it wasn't until six months ago the Erie County Prosecutor's Office began handling this part of the process, according to Capt. Steven Westcott.

Sexual offenders are classified into three categories according to the severity of their crimes, Westcott said. The most dangerous is a sexual predator, who is likely to re-offend. Next is a habitual sex offender, who has committed crimes more than one time and lastly a sexually oriented offender who has committed at least one crime.

Fitzpatrick is classified as the third degree, sexually oriented offender and is required to register for the next 10 years.

"Fitzpatrick is not one of the 145 [registered offenders] I lose sleep over," Westcott said.

Fitzpatrick is serving five years probation after spending 11 months in prison for four counts of criminal sex acts against a minor.

He worked as an officer from 1992 to 2005, during which time he met a 15-year-old girl in a cop-ride along program.

Fitzpatrick is one of about 145 registered sex offenders in Erie County. Of those, seven are predators, 10 are habitual and 113 are sexually oriented. In addition to that, 12 work in the county, but do not live here and four are juvenile offenders, Westcott said.

"Would I rather have a sexual offender not move and know where he's at, or have a sex offender homeless?" he said. "I know where I can find him."

Westcott said there is greater concern for sexual predators like Richard Wintersole, 20, who was convicted of rape when he was a juvenile. Wintersole received a letter the same day Fitzpatrick did. He previously resided within 1,000 feet of St. Mary's School in Vermilion and notified the sheriff's office of his move to Elyria, June 13.

Westcott said he received about 20 to 30 calls from parents, teachers and neighbors concerned about Wintersole's residence, but he has yet to receive a single call about Fitzpatrick.

But even with the most severe offenders, Westcott said that in seven years he has seen only one sex offender re-offend after serving jail time. That man is serving life in prison.