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Registered sex offender lives too near school

Man lives within tenth of mile from Rio Vista Elementary.

Posted: April 19, 2008 2:06 a.m.
Updated: June 20, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
A registered sex offender listed on the Attorney General's Megan's Law Web site, which alerts the public about sex offenders, lives less than a tenth of a mile from a Canyon Country school, The Signal has learned.

John Joseph Gambill, 48, is a registered sex offender who was convicted for continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14, according to the Megan's Law sex offender locator Web site.

His listed address is on a street inside Parklane Mobile Home Estates at Honby Avenue and Soledad Canyon Road, a distance shorter than the length of a football field from Rio Vista Elementary School. No one was apparently home when a Signal reporter visited the address Friday afternoon.

Jessica's Law prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a school or park, but the law applies only to those people convicted after November 2006.

Although the Megan's Law Web site does not list his conviction date, Gambill was a registered sex offender as early as 2005.

Regardless, under Megan's Law, parolees convicted of specified sex offenses against a child were barred from residing within one-quarter of a mile of a school.

As determined by a vehicle odometer reading, Gambill's mobile home is less than a quarter of a mile from Rio Vista Elementary on a street inside the mobile park community - a street used daily by children walking to school from the mobile home park to Honby Avenue.

Now a group of trailer park moms wants Gambill out of their community.

Kathy Robinson, mother of four including a 13-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter, is particularly concerned about Rio Vista Elementary students who walk to and from the school daily past the sex offender's home.

"There's a path that the kids take to the school, a back road, and all the kids walk out of the gates of the school down this road on a daily basis, about 40 to 50 kids," Robinson said Friday. "Many of them walk alone.

"Yesterday, I saw this one itty-bitty girl walking down there all by herself. I felt I had to keep watching to make sure she was OK."

Concern among park residents mounted this week when one of the mothers notified Robinson of a Megan's Law listing update that showed a registered sex offender moving into the mobile home community.

According to one Los Angeles television reporter investigating registered sex offenders, Gambill worked for a while at a car wash in Sylmar.

Rio Vista Principal Isa De Armas told The Signal Friday that she received one complaint from one concerned parent.

"The safety of our school has been wonderful," De Armas said. "We make sure the message goes out about stranger danger. One mom called me about this and we have followed up with our safety and risk management director."

The complaint is being investigated by Keith Karzin, safety and risk management director for the Saugus Union School District.

"He has been coordinating with the Sheriff's Department," Bob Cutting said of Karzin. Cutting is assistant superintendent for the business department of the Saugus district. "We've had no report of incidents with (Gambill), and he hasn't broken any law."

A woman who answered the phone at Parklane Mobile Estates, who gave her name only as Tracy, said she was told by the owners of the property not to talk to The Signal.

"I cannot have my name published," Tracy said, promising to phone the owners about media concerns but refusing to divulge the owners' phone number.

Tracy said managers of the Parklane Mobile Estates community would not be on the premises "for a couple of days."

Robinson said she's frustrated with Parklane managers. "We leave messages but most of them go unanswered," she said. "The attitude I get from management is: 'What do you want us to do?'

"We had one resident written up because she did not have her patch of grass (in front of her mobile home) cut down to an appropriate level.

Or, there's the son who got yelled at for working on his car late at night - and then you get something like this," Robinson said.

Robinson also contacted the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station and was told by a deputy that "(Gambill) has a right to obtain a residence."

It's the hope of Robinson and at least two other mothers that publicity about the sex offender in their neighborhood would convince him to move, though she says she appreciates that a registered sex offender has to live somewhere.

"That's the sad part," she said, reflecting on the fact that sex offenders driven from a community have to move somewhere else. "But, you kind of get selfish in a situation like this when it comes to your children."

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