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Public meeting held in Arkansaw on sex offender relocation draws large crowd and worries

ARKANSAW - A panel of law enforcement officials from Pepin County and the state Department of Corrections tried their best to reassure deeply concerned residents of Arkansaw Wednesday evening at Arkansaw Elementary School they will be able to handle a new resident in the community, a violent sex offender who is going to be released in the next two weeks.

The meeting was held for public information on Kerry Abbot, 50, who will soon be released from maximum security institution for the criminally insane in Mauston and has been placed in Pepin County, the place where he admitted to nine actual-or-attempted sexual assaults in the 1980's.

"An informed public is going to be the best way to deal with this situation," Pepin County Sheriff John Andrews said.

Officials said Abbott molested one of his victims at gunpoint, and he was armed with a knife-or-scissors in seven other incidents. He was found innocent by insanity in one of his cases, and he was deemed a sexually violent offender in 2001. Officials there say he is bi-polar but had made what was deemed substantial progress in his rehabilitation over the last year to warrant Trempealeau County Circuit Judge John Damon to declare back in January that Abbott met the required criteria for a supervised release. Abbots request for release, which is done yearly, had been rejected back in 2011. State law requires offenders to be put back in communities where their offenses took place.

"I would rather a person like that be put back in a place where people know him than having someone from Milwaukee County be relocated here who nobody knows." one corrections official said.

Abbott will be under electronic monitoring as part of his new placement - and he must have an approved, armed escort when going to places like work or shopping or church for the first year and will be subject to random inspections of his home. If he attempts to leave his home without escort he will be in violation of parole. However, such restrictions will be relaxed gradually in the second and third years and DOC officials were eager to have him seek employment so he can pay for his supervised released, which one official said was roughly $75,000 cheaper than having him locked away.

Andrews also said he plans to ask the Pepin County Board for more funding for increased patrolling around the residency Abbot will be living in, which is located just south of Arkansaw on CTH. D near Big Coulee Road. He also detailed plans of how the sheriff's department will respond in case Abbott violates parole, which he did the last time he was paroled in the mid-1990s before being committed to the Mauston facility in 2001. Andrews said the county will not only be relying on its own deputies but also can receive back-up from law enforcement personnel in Pierce, Dunn and Buffalo counties along with the Wisconsin State Patrol.

The panel members answered questions from the large audience inside a hot gymnasium which attended the meeting but many in the crowd were not reassured for their community's safety. Several audience members brought signs protesting the decision to relocated Abbot and many were offended when it was learned the absentee landlord who rented the home to the DOC for $1,000 a month. The home had been on the market for some time. Andrews recommended audience members contact state legislators and state legislative candidates to ask for changes in current state law.