Michael Shepard had a long rap sheet as a sex offender that went back to when he was 15-years-old. The state of Florida finally sent him to prison for a crime that happened during Christmas of 1998.
Shepard (pictured above) started his sentence shortly thereafter, but was finally released 18 months ago, thanks in large part to the efforts of Dr. Karen C. Parker who testified for the defense that Shepard “did not qualify for commitment,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.
As soon as Shepard moved in to the apartment complex at Pinellas Park, he had to contend with fliers announcing his past. Some parents were concerned, but others were won over by the 35-year-old’s seemingly likable nature.
It became easy for some parents to believe that the “Romeo and Juliet romance” that got Michael Shepard locked away was a railroad-job. He had a relationship with a girl barely his junior — one who had an angry minister father — and so at 19, the cards stacked against him, and he went to prison.
Except that’s not what happened at all.
The news site reports that Shepard had been convicted of molesting three little boys and one little girl prior to his incarceration.
But by the time any of Shepard’s new neighbors found that out, it was too late.
Shepard won the trust of the kids and their parents. He bought the little ones McDonald’s and ice cream and played video games with them. He was even allowed to babysit.
With such open access to the children of the complex, it took Michael Shepard a year-and-a-half to rack up 14 new counts of child molestation on seven kids.
The counts include allegedly raping a boy in his apartment a month after arriving, forcing 8- and 10-year-old brothers to commit sex acts on him at their “hideout”, enacting a “dare” game that “rewarded” children with sex acts for PlayStation games, forcing a 12-year-old boy to strip and wrestle him, and sexually battering a 5-year-old girl while babysitting.
He denied the accusations, noting that three of the kids had it out for him because of a disagreement that he had with the children’s father.
“I’ve been out of prison for over a year and I’ve been doing good for that year,” Shepard said to a judge. “When this all [happened], the three victims are all related to each other and I had a problem with their father over the weekend, and they want me out of the apartment complex I’m living in ’cause I’m a sex offender.”
People of the complex that spoke with the Times, however, had a different story, including one woman who was initially willing to give Michael Shepard the “benefit of the doubt.”
“At first I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt because we’ve all been that age and we’ve all made mistakes,” said Rene Oszman. But over time that changed as she began to notice discrepancies in his “Romeo and Juliet” story. She also noticed a change in the kids when Shepard would give them rides on his scooter. At first, she said, “They had these big old smiles. But over time it was just like their faces went to neutral. There was no fear, no joy, no smiles, nothing.”
Sexual abuse cases like this are unfortunate and happen too often with one of the most recent stories from the Inquisitr involving a convicted sex offender who ran a kiddie porn ring from the daycare that he managed.
Do you believe cases like that of Michael Shepard call for a review of how society treats convicted sex offenders, or does the system mostly work? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via Pinellas Park Police via Daily Mail]