Loophole in Florida sex offender law draws call for change

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NAPLES, Fla. — A Golden Gate Estates woman whose stepfather molested her was horrified to learn he had moved into a house less than a mile from an Orlando elementary school.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Christin Olsen said. “It slapped me in the face.”

A Florida law banning sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school was enacted in 2004, but that law doesn’t automatically apply to those convicted before then. It was in 2002 that a jury delivered a guilty verdict against Kenneth Ford, Olsen’s stepfather.

Ford molested Christin Olsen for five years, beginning when she was 9. He served less than 15 years in prison before his release and before he purchased his new home.

“His front yard is the sidewalk to the school,” said Stephen Olsen, Christin’s husband. “His backyard bumps up to the playground. He is surrounded by children.”

It’s a situation that could play out anywhere in the state.

“Its sickening,” Christin Olsen said. “I lose sleep over it.”

The Olsens have a child of their own who’s a major reason why Christin is determined to close the loophole. She started a petition to have the law changed to cover sex offenders convicted prior to 2004, and she plans to take up the issue with Collier County commissioners. Some counties, like Miami-Dade, have already enacted municipal codes to stiffen the law.

“My child deserves it. Our children deserve it,” she said. “They deserve better than the current laws that are in place.”

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