Community outraged as convicted child rapist moves to Lincoln

Community outraged as convicted child rapist moves to Lincoln

Richard Gardner
Community outraged as convicted child rapist moves to Lincoln

LINCOLN – Town residents were rattled by last week’s news that a convicted sex offender had settled down in town.

After police executed a search warrant at Richard Gardner’s Cranston home last month related to a tip on his storing child pornography there, the convicted child rapist relocated to Knowles Street in Lincoln.

Gardner, 53, was previously imprisoned for sexually assaulting children in Warwick and Massachusetts in the 1980s.

Gardner is an unclassified sex offender, as his case predates the Megan’s law mandating that sex offenders register as such and that the public be provided with certain information, including the offender’s whereabouts.

In a statement, the Lincoln Police Department confirmed that Gardner registered in Lincoln but that LPD was not permitted to make a community notification or publicly disclose his address.

Linda Rampone and others in the Lincoln neighborhood where Gardner now lives have placed signs and posters that read, “A level 3 sex offender lives at 14 Knowles St.”

“Police can’t notify the community, so we have to do it,” Rampone said. “I want everyone to know where he lives for their own safety.”

Upon his release from prison last October, Gardner lived in Providence until protests and vandalism caused him to move to an undisclosed Cranston location.

Though police didn’t disclose Gardner’s Providence address, the community caught wind of its newest neighbor’s location on New York Avenue and planned a series of protests and meetings in response.

Lincoln residents have responded similarly, announcing a protest on Dec. 11 near 14 Knowles St. where Gardner now lives. A Facebook group for the protest said it would be using the hashtag #Gardnersgottago.

Rampone said her concerns about her new neighbor began before she learned about his past. When Gardner and his wife began looking at the house next door, “red flags went up,” Rampone said.

“They looked really creepy. He was wearing a cap – that’s his M.O. – and a heavy coat. They hide with coats and hoods,” she said.

When she came home from work one day, the lights were on at 14 Knowles Ave.

“They closed on the house on Wednesday and moved in that afternoon. I came home to find the lights on and realized they bought it,” she said. That night, another neighbor told Rampone the new member of the neighborhood was a convicted sex offender.

Three decades ago, Gardner was convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a number of children.

In June of 1988, a 21-year-old Gardner drove from Massachusetts to R.I. in a stolen car and abducted a 10-year-old boy in Providence, throwing the boy in the car and taking him to a secluded place where he sexually assaulted him.

One month later, he broke into a Warwick home through a bedroom window, aimed a flashlight into the eyes of a sleeping boy and forced him to leave at knifepoint before molesting him at a ball field and releasing him in his underwear to find his way home.

Later that day, he attempted to abduct an 11-year-old girl in Bellingham, Mass., grabbing her by the arm. She broke free, and Gardner drove away.

The same day, he returned to R.I. where he snatched a 6-year-old boy who was leaving the library with his brother and a friend. According to court records, he tied the victim to a tree and sexually assaulted him at a park in Massachusetts.

The spree occurred while Gardner was out on bail for abducting a 12-year-old boy on Halloween night in 1987 in Massachusetts. He also tied that victim to a tree in a state park, blindfolded him, molested him and left him alone for hours.

Gardner confessed to the crimes and was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to 190 years in prison. His probation began in 1993 and lasts for 50 years.

He served 30 years and was released from prison in 2016, but was arrested 10 days later for entering a public library. He served another year for violating his probation.

At that time, three mental health professionals deemed Gardner is sexually dangerous, but prosecutors failed to request that he be civilly committed as such, which would have helped to keep him behind bars.

According to reports from his sentencing, Gardner claimed he was sexually assaulted when he was 12 at a New Hampshire Boy Scout Camp.

He appealed his 190-year sentence and it was shortened to 50 years, with 30 to be served.

Upon his release from prison in 2016, Gardner moved to Providence until protests and two acts of vandalism caused him to relocate to Cranston.

On Nov. 29 of this year, detectives and members of the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force searched Gardner’s Cranston home on a tip that he was storing and keeping child pornography.

They seized a phone, digital media storage device and documents from the home, but Gardner has thus far not been charged with a crime.

Rampone said best-case scenario, he’ll be locked up again as a result of that ongoing investigation. Otherwise, neighbors hope Gardner doesn’t get too comfortable in Lincoln.

Rampone’s son Nick helped plan Wednesday’s peaceful protest in an effort to help raise awareness about Gardner’s presence. Six police officers were designated for the event after more than 500 people expressed interest on Facebook.

“We are not stopping,” said Rampone, who has reached out to state officials with her concerns. “We want to get him out.”

Rampone questioned the fact that, legally, Gardner cannot be within 300 feet of a school, but there’s no issue with children passing by his house on their way to the bus stop. “He can sit in his house and watch the kids walk by,” she said.

Stephanie Evans, a parent of two Lincoln children, said she brought those concerns to Supt. Larry Filippelli, who assured her that the district is “doing everything they legally can to keep our kids safe.”

“Unfortunately, Gardner has the ACLU on his side and he knows his rights and how to use them,” she said. When Gardner moved to Providence and the community reacted with outrage, the ACLU released a statement defending Gardner’s right to live there.

“Integrating ex-offenders into communities, rather than ostracizing them, is one of the best things neighbors and policymakers alike can to do promote prosocial behavior and thus public safety.”

As a parent, Evans said it infuriates her that Gardner “seems to have more protection and rights than our children. I definitely want him out of Lincoln but not to drag this problem and fear to families in another community. We have to get these laws changed, no question about it.”

She showed her daughter a photo of Gardner and told her what kind of car he drives.

“I’ve been keeping both of my kids inside, my son is three, doing crafts and watching movies. I’ve triple checked all my windows and doors to be sure they’re locked and haven’t stopped checking on my kids. This is terrible as parents having to have these fears,” she said.

In a Facebook group called “Lincoln residents against child predator Richard Gardner,” neighbor Serena Wolstenholme said she’s worried about him watching her children from his window, “making my kids feel like they can’t take the trash out … play basketball and ride their bikes. He’s making us feel like we are prisoners.”

Rampone said, “He chose a neighborhood with families and kids. If he thought he’d be welcome he’d be out of his mind. He could have settled in a more secluded area or away from kids. He chose to park himself in a neighborhood, and he chose the consequences of that.”

Comments

Hopefully Cranston will find something on him and put him behind bars.

In my own town, they allowed a predator to live aside a daycare!! When daycare parents checked the neighborhood zip code out, they found that a predator was living right next door, renting a room, unbeknownst to the daycare owner. Needless to say, the daycare went out of business, and had been operating for years. They then moved out of state, angry at the system that was supposed to protect children.
Our sheriff office says the predator does not live there anymore, yet, have never changed the info online...so where is he now??? His info has not been updated as required by law. I can surely understand their concerns as a parent and the fragile situation.

14 knowles street Gardner’s Home OFF Cobble Hill Road