Thursday, November 26, 2015  

Account Login  

  need help?  
Search By Keyword
Breaking News Alerts
Email Alerts
Email Address
Text Alerts
Mobile Number
 )  - 
Mobile Provider
standard messaging rates apply
Current Conditions
Ellijay, GA
Radar & More >>
Kerri Henderson, who is one of the neighbors in an Old Clear Creek School neighborhood concerned about a sex offender moving into the community, holds the youngest of her four daughter, Lily, 4. (Photo by Mark Millican)
by Mark Millican

Kerri Henderson knew something was up when two strangers appeared in her neighborhood asking questions.

“We had our antenna up,” said the mother of four girls. “One of the men asked the kids if their parents were at home, so when Jon (her husband) went out to talk to them they told him they were from the Department of Corrections and that a convicted sex offender wanted to live here.”

The Old Flat Creek School neighborhood where Jon and Kerri Henderson live on a cul-de-sac is full of other families who keep an eye on each other’s children. She said the DOC reps were interested when her husband told them there were around a couple dozen children who lived in the neighborhood, with 13 kids on their street alone.

“(The DOC officer) told Jon, ‘Oh, this will never work out.’ Nobody came back and told us he was moving in, but we’ve seen DOC probation officers in the driveway often (since he moved in),” Kerri said, pointing out the offender moved in around two months after the DOC officers first visited.

The new neighbor, Phillip David Conrad, age 29 or 30, was convicted of aggravated child molestation in October of 2004, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation sex offender registry. Conrad has no past charges in Gilmer County, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman said.

Community members were on it.

“Some other neighbors already knew his name, but nobody was trying to cause trouble,” Kerri Henderson said. “We were trying to prevent trouble, really.”

After answering the door at his home and being asked if he would be willing to talk about concerns his new neighbors had, Conrad responded, “I didn’t know about any concerns.”

Neighbor Steve Ross doesn’t think Conrad is contrite.

“Aside from the obvious, the guy doesn’t seem to be very repentant,” Ross said of Conrad. “When you make a mistake — and this is a helluva mistake — you tend to follow the rules, at least that’s what I would assume. You tend to be courteous and try to keep a low profile, especially when you’re on parole or probation for such a long period of time. This guy really isn’t doing that. They picked out a neighborhood with 15 kids … (and) we saw (Conrad’s) little green car around here at least five to six months before they moved … and then the DOC officer came and talked to Kerri and them. It’s not the label, it’s the person … (but) the word child molester is all-encompassing.”

Neighborhood watch group forming

As for the future, Ross detailed, “The plan that we have is that we keep an eye on him” Kerri Henderson said a newly-formed group called “Neighbors Against Predators” is meeting this week.

Capt. Frank Copeland of the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office said they would also be on watch.

“We are going to do what we can legally do in regard to him,” he said. “We are going to check on these guys regularly to make sure they are where they say they are, doing what they’re supposed to be doing — and then also (check their) probation or parole. (The offenders) also have a surveillance officer (from DOC), and it is my understanding they will help to keep a watch on the guy. That’s about all that can be done from a legal standpoint. There’s no prohibition — school, church, day care or anything of that nature — that’s within the 1,000-feet rule, and if they establish one today he would be exempt from it because he was there first.”

But Conrad is not being singled out, Copeland said.

“We’re not doing it just for him, we’re doing it for all  of the (sex) offenders,” he explained. “We go around once a month and Deputy (Jason) Reed lays eyes on them once a month, and he stays busy with that. There’s a couple of them out there he visits more than once a month due to the nature of their offenses, and (Conrad) is probably one of them. And because the neighbors are up in arms over him moving in, which I can’t blame them. We’re keeping an eye on those folks, but there’s not a lot we can do — but we’re doing all that we can.”

A call to the DOC Sex Offender Administration office was not answered.

‘All lumped into one category’

Conrad’s mother, Cathy Conrad, believes sex offenders are vilified as a group.

“First, we were not aware of anyone having any concerns,” she said of their neighbors. “Second of all, those charges occurred some time back, and Phillip has followed his court-ordered counseling and completed that successfully. He has followed his probation to the letter of the law, he’s not been in any more trouble. He’s doing his very best to be a law-abiding citizen.”

In categories on the GBI’s sex offender registry marked “absconder” and “predator,” both boxes are marked “No” on Conrad’s webpage.

Cathy Conrad said she understands why “people would have a concern.”

“It’s unfortunate that people with these charges are all lumped into one category, and they’re all thought of as monsters,” she said. “If I was the mother of a child, I would have concerns, I’m sure. But I am the mother of the offender, and I know him. I, in fact, was the one who turned him in. I will not tolerate that kind of behavior and he knows that.”

Conrad said her son had “done his very best to change his life.”

“He got high remarks from the people at the court-ordered sexual counseling facility,” she said. “His probation officers can tell you that he is a letter-of-the-law probationer and he does everything by the book. He will drive them nuts calling them and asking questions before he’ll take a chance on doing something wrong or putting himself in a bad situation. So he’s trying very hard and he goes out of his way to avoid circumstances where anyone can even think he might be doing something wrong. That’s all we can do.”

When a reporter went to his vehicle to get a business card and returned, Cathy Conrad was crying. In the doorway, Phillip Conrad looked at his mother without speaking.

Polling All Citizens
Have you started shopping for Christmas yet?

click ad below for details
  • Show All Ads