This happened in my city!
Offender caught with 20-month-old girl in library restroom
The man has a prior conviction in Texas for assaulting a woman.
By TOM ALEX
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
October 5, 2005
Police said a registered sex offender who lived at a Des Moines homeless shelter kidnapped a toddler Tuesday at the downtown library and sexually assaulted her in a locked men's room while employees worked to open the door.
James Carson Effler Jr., 32, grabbed the 20-month-old girl about 11 a.m. as she played on the floor near her baby sitter, who was using a library computer, investigators said.
Library employees helped the baby sitter search for the girl before they heard a child's cry. Employees then called police and removed the handle on the restroom's door to gain access and reach the girl; they held Effler until officers got there, Capt. Kelly Willis said.
"Most of the police work was done by the library staff before we even arrived," Willis said.
No one else was hurt. The child was taken to a hospital for evaluation, and her parents were contacted. The extent of her injuries was not made public.
The incident illustrates the difficulty lawmakers face in trying to attack child molestation by such measures as requiring offenders to register with the state or limiting where they may live.
Effler was convicted in Texas in 2003 for sexually assaulting a 31-year-old woman.
Javier Sambrano, public information officer for the El Paso, Texas, police department, said the conviction against Effler stemmed from a May 2002 incident in which he knocked on the door at the home of a 31-year-old woman and asked to use the telephone. Once Effler gained entry, he sexually assaulted the woman.
"They did not know each other, he was not someone she knew, but in the area where the victim lived, many of the neighbors often would ask to use the phone," Sambrano said.
He was sentenced to three years in prison and later paroled. Officials have not determined how long he has lived in Iowa.
Effler is listed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry, but because the conviction involved an adult victim, he was not covered by a new state law that bans child molesters from living within 2,000 feet of a school or child care center.
Effler, who police say lives at Churches United Shelter, 205 15th St., reported his address to registry officials as 201 1/2 Fifth St. in West Des Moines.
He is charged with first-degree kidnapping, second-degree sexual assault and failure to comply with rules of the registry, because he was not living at the address listed. The kidnapping charge is the most serious of the three; it carries a life prison term.
The baby sitter noticed the child missing about 11 a.m., police said. She told officers the girl had been playing at her feet while she surfed the Internet at a table not far from the men's restroom on the main level of the library, 100 Locust St.
The baby sitter and library employees immediately began a search for the child, and then someone heard a child scream in the restroom and saw an adult's shadow on the other side of the frosted glass.
Library workers tried to force their way into the restroom, then called for a maintenance worker with a screwdriver.
Willis said that employees William Stokes and Pam Deitrick removed the handle and opened the door, and that they then pulled the child out of the restroom and shut Effler inside.
"They are heroes," Willis said. "They grabbed the baby and shut the door on him."
Library Director Kay Runge referred all questions about the investigation to the police.
Police have been called to the main library 51 times this year for a host of minor problems.
Tuesday's incident "was an awful thing, horrendous," Acting City Manager Rick Clark said. "We are really thankful the library staff was there and attentive and took the initiative to do something about this."
Effler was jailed in May for public urination and arrested less than a month later for drunken driving. He spent 30 days in jail, according to court records.
Records also show Effler was charged with shoplifting in Windsor Heights on Aug. 29. He was ordered to pay a $50 fine.
Doug Epperson, a psychology professor at Iowa State University who helped Minnesota officials develop guidelines to evaluate sex offenders before they are released from prison, said child abductions by strangers are rare.
"Typically, with a victim that young, it's a related perpetrator or a perpetrator who is connected in some way with the parents, or it could be a friend of the family," he said. "Normally a stranger would not have access to a victim that young."
The March abduction and murder of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage of Cedar Rapids — the man accused in her death, Roger Paul Bentley, 38, was a friend of the family — sparked Iowa lawmakers to pass a handful of laws to crack down on sex criminals.
Police Sgt. Barry Arnold said 20 to 30 of the Churches United shelter's 125 or so residents have been warned that they must move under the residency restriction law. Effler was not one of them.
Register staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this article.[/B]