AURORA – A group of Aurora pastors hopes that Aurora residents and Aurora City Council members will urge Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin to rescind an order to evict 19 child sex offenders from Wayside Cross Ministries.
"We do not condone the prior behavior of these men," said the Rev. Dan Haas, who has served on the board of directors for Wayside Cross, in a prepared statement during a press conference July 3 at the Wayside facility in downtown Aurora. "They have been tried, convicted and sentenced for their crimes. Each has served his time in prison. The state of Illinois tells them they have paid their debt to society and releases them from prison. But, registered sex offenders face an extremely difficult re-entry into non prison life. They have very limited housing options, very limited employment options and very limited finances upon release from prison. Without help, most ex-offenders end up back in prison. Wayside Cross is one of the few options in the state of Illinois for registered sex offenders. So, if they are evicted from Wayside Cross, where do they go?"
On June 26, Aurora police officers notified child sex offenders residing at Wayside Cross that they were in violation of the law by residing within 500 feet of a playground. The child sex offenders have been given 30 days to leave the facility.
During a media briefing on July 2, Irvin defended the city's actions.
"Our effort and priority is the protection of our children, especially in proximity to the park where the children regularly play," he said.
The Wayside facility, located at 215 E. New York St. in downtown Aurora, is within 500 feet of the property line of McCarty Park, Irvin said.
He said the city started having conversations with Wayside leaders about the violation in February, nearly two months prior to Thomas Kokoraleis – who was convicted of the 1982 murder of Lorraine "Lorry" Ann Borowski of Elmhurst – moved into the Wayside facility.
Kokoraleis was released on March 29 from prison after serving half of his 70-year sentence. On March 31, Kokoraleis went into the Aurora Police Department to register as a sex offender and then moved into the facility.
Irvin had said the city had become aware that the city's geographic information system maps that assist the police department had not correctly measured the distance from the Wayside facility to McCarty Park. Because he is not a child sex offender, Kokoraleis is not impacted by the city's action. Both Kokoraleis and Borowski were 21 years old at the time of the alleged murder.
Haas said Wayside Cross was right in letting Kokoraleis move into the facility.
"Taking Thomas Kokoraleis in was part of their mission statement," he said. "It wasn't meant to blindside anybody. It was meant that we're fulfilling our mission. I think the bigger question is aren't there other options to be worked out."
The Rev. Randy Schoof is pastor of The Warehouse Church, which is located next to McCarty Park. Four of the 19 child sex offenders that are being evicted from Wayside Cross attend the church.
"They are very committed to seeing God change their lives," Schoof said.
Schoof said that as a pastor and a lifelong Aurora resident, he is "deeply committed" to the safety of Aurora residents.
"I can sit at my desk any day during the summer and look out into the park and see 60, 80, 100 kids from the local day care splashing around in the water feature there," he said. "If I thought for a second that those kids were in danger, I would speak up."