Michael Shepard, a Florida resident who was released from prison only 18 months ago, was arrested again after reportedly molesting seven children since his release. The 35-year-old convicted sex offender allegedly lied to neighbors about the reason for his first arrest and eventually started babysitting their children.
Registered sex offenders are required to notify neighbors of their sexual offender status when moving into a new neighborhood. Shepard told neighbors that he was arrested for having a consensual relationship with a 16-year-old girl while he was 18, the Daily Mail reported. He called the relationship a "Romeo and Juliet romance."
However, the truth was that he served 15 years in prison for molesting a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old at a skating rink in 1998.
Shepard gained the trust of his new neighbors and eventually started babysitting and playing with at least seven children. The youngest victim was 5 years old and all the victims were younger than 12. He was seen giving them rides on his scooter, playing video games with them, and taking them to fast food restaurants.
Shepard allegedly raped and sexually abused the children at his home and at a secluded area in the woods. Some children were even allowed to sleep over at his apartment.
Shepard was almost not released from prison following his 15-year sentence due to the Jimmy Ryce Act. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the act was intended to detain prisoners that were deemed likely to reoffend.
Before being released from prison, Shepard was analyzed by two psychologists. One doctor diagnosed Shepard with pedophilia, depressive disorder and adult antisocial behavior. He determined that Shepard was likely to reoffend.
However, the doctor was not confident and said that he was, “straddling the fence,” over Shepard's diagnosis, a Pinellas-Pasco court spokesman noted.
Shepard had been caught having sex with inmates and had a sexual relationship with his step-brother after being released from prison.
Some neighbors were appalled that parents let Shepard around their children without supervision.
One man told the Tampa Bay Times: “They were just oblivious. They just believed his lies.”
Shepard now faces 14 new charges of raping or assaulting at least seven children. He is being held on $5 million bail.