LACOMBE, La. -- St. Tammany Parish has called for a homeowner to stop housing numerous sex offenders under one roof.
Coradena Batiste was stunned last week when she found 11 sex offender notifications in her mailbox all at once, all at one address on Lake Road in Lacombe, all across the street from the neighborhood school bus stop.
"I don't sleep at night knowing that they have 11 sex offenders, two blocks, not even two blocks from me," she said, "I have three small grandchildren; 5, 7 and 11. And it's scary."
The house is not a halfway house, so its not monitored by any governmental agency. The offenders there have all completed their sentences, with their only remaining requirement to keep the state informed of where they live, which has to meet certain criteria. The tenants all ended up there together a month ago when a similar congregate living set-up, also in Lacombe but owned by a different landlord, was shutdown due to code enforcement violations.
But since the multiple mailings, residents have been sounding the alarm to the parish to get the house shutdown too, with a petition.
The man that owns the house, Abraham Williams, offered up the home as an alternative when he heard about the closure of the Shady Pines location. He says he didn't think twice about it because he's housed sex offenders many times in the past.
"I've been having sex offenders for nine years. Nobody complains," he said, then clarified he's never had that many at his Lake Road property.
Williams says having several in one house is a benefit for several reasons; He gives them rules, like curfew and employment, that they otherwise wouldn't have elsewhere. He also says it's easier for him, and law enforcement, to check on the offenders in one spot as opposed to scattered.
Williams believes it's a win-win for the offenders and the neighbors.
"This house is spacey for them, okay, so I don't see what the problem is they want to complain about. Because a person is a sex offender? And they've spent 25, 30 years. It's not time for them to get back in society?" he asked.
Batiste shares Williams' compassion, but with limitations.
"I believe people like them should deserve a second chance, but they shouldn't all be in one house," she said.
And Tuesday, the parish agreed. In its continuing investigation into the matter, following inspections of the property Friday and again Tuesday, the parish code enforcement issued a cease and desist order requiring Williams to reduce the tenants to a single-family occupancy, per the area's zoning laws.