LOOGOOTEE – The fact that a convicted sex offender has opened a tattoo shop near a preschool brought out an overflow crowd of more than 30 to Tuesday’s Loogootee City Council meeting.
Makenzie Wagoner, 19, made an impassioned plea for city officials and the public at large to take action to protect young children. She does not want the business closed, but rather forced to relocate some place away from children.
Indiana law prohibits sex offenders of minors from living within 1,000 feet of any school property, public parks and certain program centers. However, individual counties may impose other restrictions around movement, employment and alcohol consumption.
Wagoner pointed out that Indiana, unlike Illinois and a few other states, does not restrict a business owned by a convicted sex offender from being located near a school. She would like to see Indiana’s law changed.
Mayor Noel Harty said he would try to arrange a meeting in Loogootee soon between Wagoner and two local state officials, State Sen. Eric Bassler of Washington and State Rep. Shane Lindauer of Jasper.
Wagoner provided documents to the Times Herald which showed that Charles A. Taylor had been registered as a sexually violent predator in Illinois on Jan. 20, 2010. He was convicted March 8, 2005, of predatory criminal sexual assault. He was sentenced to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Taylor now lives in Loogootee. A document provided by Wagoner states the Indiana equivalent for the Illinois charge is child molesting, a felony.
Wagoner works as the youth librarian at the Loogootee Public Library. She is currently a student at the University of Southern Indiana, pursuing a double-major in early childhood education and elementary education.
“I’m fighting for this, but I should not be fighting alone,” Wagoner said. “He is going to offend again, it is only a matter of time.”
Wagoner criticized Harty for attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month for Taylor’s shop. She also said neither the mayor nor police chief Jim Floyd had notified the owners of the preschool nor Loogootee school officials about Taylor.
Harty said he had not found out about Tayor’s legal status as a convicted sex offender until five days after the ribbon cutting.
Floyd did not comment during the meeting, but his department issued a press release. It stated: “It has come to our attention that there are concerns about a registered sex offender opening a business in Loogootee. We are aware of this happening and found no legal authority to prohibit it. We are aware of his registry status and there is no law prohibiting the operation of this business by this individual. We, as police officers, are obligated to operate within the bounds of the law as they are written.”
Later on, the press release stated: “Freedom of speech is a constitutional right. You have the right to choose who you do business with and to express your concerns; however, harassment, intimidation, threats, violence, vandalism, etc. are illegal and may result in criminal charges.”
The sex offender registry administrator is Cpl. Joshua Seymour of the Martin County Sheriff’s Department.
Wagoner gave the Times Herald a copy of comments to her allegedly made on Facebook by Taylor. He said the law allows him to work anywhere he wants, including next to a daycare. He accused her of trying to take away from his children, stepchildren and wife. Despite his conviction, he claims he has done nothing wrong.
After she spoke, Wagoner was loudly applauded by those attending the meeting.
In other business, Cameron Hedrick, a Loogootee High School graduate and owner of Hedrick Web Design, presented the council with a proposal to redesign the city’s existing website. The initial cost would be $6,720, plus $18 an hour for any additional work outside of this proposal. The recurring cost would be $1,170 annually.
Harty suggested the council members study the proposal at home and then return at the Nov. 8 meeting to discuss the matter and ask questions.
The final financial report on the city pool operations showed a loss of $11,853.96. Due to coronavirus, the pool was closed in 2020. In 2019, the pool operations lost $8,692.15.