NORTHUMBERLAND — The state has backed off a plan to put a sex offender in a group home with four developmentally disabled men, at least for now.
Sharon Ashe, a Kingsbury resident whose son is among those who live in the home, said she got word over the weekend from state Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner that the sex offender would not be moving into the Route 50 home in the hamlet of Gansevoort as planned on Tuesday.
“There is a temporary hold on the move. They didn’t say for how long, but we are hoping they decide not to put him there,” she said.
Ashe said media attention started by a Post-Star article last week brought a number of people forward to advocate for her in recent days, including Woerner, D-Round Lake.
She said Woerner was in touch with her throughout the weekend, and broke the good news.
Guardians of two of the other residents of the home had also spoken out about the plan to relocate Level 2 sex offender James A. Becker Jr., who was to be put in the home from state prison after apparently being deemed to have a developmental disability. Becker, 33, is serving a state prison for third-degree rape and has been in prison on-and-off since 2015, state records show.
Ashe’s 47-year-old son has lived in the home for about 25 years, and two other men who are there have been there for more than 20 years as well.
She said the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, which runs the home, did not go through the normal channels of letting families know about a prospective new roommate in Becker’s case, and they found out secondhand through concerned staff members.
Ashe said the families and those who rallied to help them will continue to lobby the Developmental Disabilities Office to find somewhere else for Becker to live. The state has homes for sex offenders who have Becker’s issues, she said.
Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy, a family friend of the Ashes, sent a letter to the OPWDD commissioner detailing his concerns about the possible placement of Becker and also notified Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo.
“Even with the limited information I have on this individual, I can’t understand how a convicted felon, who was able to be sentenced and serve time in a maximum-security state prison, could also be placed in a OPWDD state facility with vulnerable entities,” Murphy wrote.
“I can’t believe how everybody has responded,” Ashe said.
Among those who helped were Michael Carey, a statewide advocate for the disabled, who filed a complaint with the agency, claiming the placement would illegally endanger the residents of the home.
Carey said Tuesday he is optimistic that the state agency’s decision on Becker will be “permanent.”
“It’s illegal, what they were trying to do,” Carey said. “They are trying to put sex offenders in homes with people who are like children.”
OPWDD spokeswoman Jennifer O’Sullivan said that OPWDD could not comment on specific clients, but is “continually reviewing service options for each person to ensure that the services we provide are tailored to meet their specific needs.”
It was unclear where Becker, a native of Fulton County, was headed when he is released from prison, but an OPWDD employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity said there were indications a state-run group home in the Greenwich area may become his new home.