Kerry "Dane" Marlowe pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation of a minor. (Source: HCSO)
CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Explosive allegations are reported after a 10-year-old girl is violated in the front yard of her own home, but the most disturbing part of the incident, is how the legal system has seemingly turned its back on this victim offering no support and no protection.
Chris Smith remembers back to the day his daughter came running to his side, frozen in fear, unable to speak.
"This is where Marlowe attempted to assault my daughter. He came and leaned over the fence and started to ask my 10-year-old daughter what her bra size was," claims Smith.
It was October 2011. Chris' daughter was playing with her neighbor's kitten in her yard when 62-year-old Kerry "Dane" Marlowe attempted to kiss her on the mouth and then exposed himself.
Senior Assistant Solicitor of Horry County, Candice Lively, says the act went beyond shocking.
"Absolutely brazen and absolutely criminal. Without a doubt it was criminal and needed to be prosecuted," says Lively.
Lively prosecuted the case against Marlowe. In June 2012 he pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation of a minor. He was sentenced to four years probation, ordered to register as a sex offender, no contact with the victim and was required to stay 30 feet from her house.
The only problem, Marlowe lives right next door to the victim, and no one can do anything about it. In South Carolina it is legal for a sex offender to live right next door to their victim. In this particular case, the only thing separating them is a fence.
Lively tells us, "We can't make him move. We can't make him go anywhere else. Our laws are pretty strapped on what we can and can't do because we've got to follow the constitution; we've got to consider those rights."
The rights Lively's talking about come down to one of the oldest in American history, the right to own property.
Under current law in South Carolina, it clearly states where a sex offender can and can't live, but that's only if they're not a property owner.
It is unlawful for a sex offender, who has been convicted,...to reside within one thousand feet of a school, daycare center, children's recreational facility, park, or public playground:
This section does not apply to a sex offender who:
(1) resided within one thousand feet of a school, daycare center, children's recreational facility, park, or public playground before the effective date of this act;
(2) resided within one thousand feet of a school, daycare center, children's recreational facility, park, or public playground on property the sex offender owned before the sex offender was charged with any of the offenses enumerated in subsection (B);
(3) resides within one thousand feet of a school, daycare center, children's recreational facility, park, or public playground as a result of the establishment of a new school, daycare center, children's recreational facility, park, or public playground;
Meaning a sex offender can live right next to a school, or in this case a victim, just as long as they owned that property before they were charged with a sexual offense. So the bigger question may be who's rights should hold greater weight in court: the victims' or property owners'?
"When you see where the current law is right now, the way that it's written there is no protection of victim's right where it trumps property rights. Are you appalled by that at all?" questions WMBF News Anchor Heather Biance of the victim's father.
Smith admits, "I think it was an oversight. I don't think that the writers of the law ever thought that a situation like this would ever occur. They didn't take into account that there are Dane Marlowe's out in the world."
Smith argues if a felon gives up their right to vote and possess a gun when they're convicted, he says the argument that legislators can't touch constitutional rights doesn't hold much merit.
"Those are all the things that are part of the punishment that he has to endure for what he had done," argues Smith.
Smith goes on to say, "If he wanted to rent his property out to someone, I don't have a problem with that. What I don't want is the man living next door to us. I do not believe that the property rights of a registered sex offender trump the right of minor child to live in safety and without fear of being assaulted again by that same man."
Smith is now writing every Senator and Representative in South Carolina begging for legislation to be drafted so no other child and family has to endure what they've gone through.
"No child should have to live next door being afraid to go into their backyard to play," states Smith.
WMBF News stopped by Mr. Marlowe's home several times to give him the opportunity to share his side of the story. We were finally able to catch up with him, but he declined to comment. The Smith family has reached out to a realtor and have actively searched for a new home, but they say with the market the way it is, financially they can't afford to make the move right now.
The legal battle is far from over. Several advocates have spoken with the Smith family and they promise to try and make changes to the South Carolina law. Legislative session begins January 8.
It's important for parents to know that a sex offender can live less than 1,000 feet from a school, daycare, rec center or park if they owned property before they were charged, or if they owned the property before those businesses were built.
You can search for offenders in your area or where your children attend school or daycare with the sex offender registry.
Keep your family safe by tracking sex offenders in your neighborhood and understanding how to prevent sex crimes. Understand and prevent sex crimes Florence County Sex Offenders Georgetown CountyMore>>
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