Enter the terms you wish to search for. In 1996 Ron and Pat Book hired a chewing On A Dub to help manage their frenetic household in Plantation, Fla.
Ron is one of the state’s most powerful lobbyists and was traveling constantly. Pat was consumed with running a chocolate shop she had recently opened. For Lauren, though, Flores’s arrival marked the beginning of a private horror. One day early on, the nanny asked the girl to spit out her chewing gum.
When Lauren refused, Flores leaned in, stuck her tongue into Lauren’s mouth, and removed the gum with it. Flores explained herself the next day by saying that was how people behaved when they loved each other. Soon she began molesting the girl in bed at night and watching her shower in the morning. Over time, Flores became more violent. Flores was canny about concealing her abusiveness, and Lauren says she was too pliant, confused, and ashamed to divulge what she was enduring. When Lauren’s parents asked her one day if she was interested in any guys in her eighth-grade class, Flores set out to find the girl a boyfriend, hoping to avert suspicion.
She pointed to a kid in Lauren’s yearbook, Kris Lim, and coached her on how to woo him. Lauren and Kris went out and soon became a couple. Book’s relentlessness as a lobbyist is legendary. Compact and pugnacious, he sports a large diamond-studded ring, wears impeccably tailored Brioni suits, and drives a Bentley V12 convertible and an Audi R8. He carries three cell phones, and during the legislative session in Tallahassee you can often see him juggling calls in each ear while also wheedling a passing lawmaker.
In the wake of Lauren’s abuse, Book mounted a legislative onslaught on sexual predators. Among the many measures he championed, the most significant were local residency restrictions that barred registered sex offenders from living within a certain radius–usually 2,500 feet–of places where children gather, like schools, parks, and playgrounds. By the time he was done, Book had helped pass such ordinances in some 60 cities and counties throughout Florida and beyond. The impact on the offenders was severe.
Entire cities were suddenly off limits to them. They became pariahs, confined to remote and shrinking slivers of land. The most egregious example is a colony of predators camped out under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which spans Miami’s Biscayne Bay–a place so surreal and outlandish that it has become a lightning rod in the debate over America’s treatment of sex offenders. At the Julia Tuttle camp, the sex offenders begin trickling in around dusk.
It is a squalid and dreary place. The air is thick and stifling, reeking of human feces and of cat urine from all the strays that live there. Overhead, the bridge drones and trembles with six lanes of traffic. Makeshift dwellings sprawl out in every direction–tents clinging to concrete pylons, rickety shacks fashioned out of plywood, a camper shell infested with cockroaches.
The three-year-old settlement now numbers more than 70 people, including an 83-year-old deaf man, a wheelchair-bound fellow, and one woman. Some have lived there so long that their driver’s licenses list their addresses as “Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge. Every now and then, some succumb to desperation. In early July, one man repeatedly slashed himself with a knife in an apparent suicide attempt and had to be subdued with a stun gun, according to police. The causeway colony may be an extreme example, but sex offenders have been similarly uprooted across the country, as lawmakers have seized on residency restrictions in recent years. Thirty states and hundreds of cities and counties–162 in Florida alone–have adopted them in some form.
In Iowa, thousands of offenders were displaced, which forced many into shabby motels around Des Moines and others onto the streets. Even some staunch supporters of residency restrictions have expressed misgivings after witnessing the chaos the ordinances sow. Dan Gelber, whose district is home to the Julia Tuttle camp, is adamant about the 2,500-foot rule. A father of three, he recently learned, to his dismay, that a registered sex offender who lived six doors down from him was arrested for masturbating in front of some children. In the immediate aftermath of that crushing meeting with Lauren’s psychiatrist, Book couldn’t have cared less about crafting enlightened social policy toward sex offenders. His most immediate concern was removing Flores from his home.