RICHLAND CENTER (WKOW) — A judge has overturned the placement of a registered sex offender with a history of violence after concerns from neighbors.
Richard Sugden, 64, was scheduled to move into a home six miles outside of Richland Center last week as part of his supervised release. That move was delayed and ultimately terminated after a court hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Sugden has been living in Ashland County since his release in June of 2019 but the Department of Health Services has been looking for a home for him in Richland County so he could reintegrate into his own community.
"He wants to come back and establish those goals he's made in treatment," Sugden's attorney Robert Peterson said.
Sugden spent decades in prison for convictions including rape and the abduction and sexual assault of a 17-year-old.
"That was 45 years ago," he protested when the convictions came up in court.
Jamie Shannon, who lives next door to Sugden's placement brought up concerns to the DHS and the Department of Corrections. She also started a petition to garner support from neighbors because she feared for her family’s safety as a single mother of three children.
"I never really thought about my own safety," she said. "Everything, all my efforts have been for the kids."
The DHS official who made his plan, Scott Timm, testified that as a condition of his supervised release, Sugden will be under house arrest for his first year. He also explained Sugden will face probation restrictions and GPS monitoring for the rest of his life.
Timm also testified that when Sugden's potential placement was selected, the fact that a single mother of three children lived so close by was never reported.
After weighing the testimony, Vernon County Circuit Court Judge Darcy Rood ruled there was a reasonable safety concern. DHS should place Sugden somewhere else because his neighbor would be a single woman who matches the profile of the women he attacked.
"The house is too close to Mr. Sugden when an adult woman will be home alone," she said.
In the wake of the decision, Shannon shared her relief.
"I won't have to worry about it anymore," she said. "My oldest will be able to sleep tonight."
Peterson called the decision a disappointment, noting that Sugden has been waiting for nearly three years for the chance to return to his home county.
"There's always an excuse for why people don't want sex offenders in their neighborhoods," he said. "That is not safety of the community that is feelings of the community."
Judge Rood says Sugden should continue to live in Ashland County until DHS finds a more suitable home in Richland County.
DHS has 60 days to find a potential location.