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WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 12, 2011, 10:08 PM

Sex offender found living in Lisbon city park

Lisbon, ND (WDAY TV) - Frightened families are feeling relief after a convicted sex offender is arrested in the small community of Lisbon. That man, a Vietnam Veteran, legally lived in the last place you'd think: A city park. Leaders aren't taking the unsettling scare lightly. They are making a rare move to stop this from happening again.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

Frightened families are feeling relief after a convicted sex offender is arrested in the small community of Lisbon. That man, a Vietnam Veteran, legally lived in the last place you'd think: A city park. Leaders aren't taking the unsettling scare lightly. They are making a rare move to stop this from happening again.

The felon from Mandan moved into Lisbon August 26th. He spent his days and nights, living out of a camper in the popular park. Now, after weeks of worry, the offender is back in custody and sparking change to city law.

As the sun beats down on Sandhager Park, what better way to spend this October day, than on a stroll.

Jennifer Hehn – Mother: “We come to the park quite a bit.”

Jennifer Hehn comes here often with her two young children. She keeps a watchful eye and even tighter grip on them knowing what she knows now.

Jennifer Hehn: “It's makes a mother nervous.”

And who can blame her? After all, this convicted sex offender had been lurking in this play place for weeks on end. Just feet from the football field, homes, and children. The very victims the level two offender twice preyed upon in the 1980s.

Jeanette Persons – Lisbon Police Chief: “It really put people in the community at an alarm state. They were very scared. They didn't know what to expect.”

The 66 year old Veteran lived at this campsite, igniting fear across the small town of Lisbon.

Jeanette Person: “It was totally legal at that time...Things can change in an instant.”

Police quickly posted fliers, notified daycares, churches, schools, and businesses. They even increased enforcement and park patrol. But Norman Shjerve caused no problems, except one. He didn't register within three days, as required. Now, Shjerve's back in jail for 90 days after pleading guilty to the crime.

Jerry Gemar – Lisbon City Council: “We've never had it happen here before.”

Surprisingly, the only restriction Shjerve had on him, was he couldn't camp in state parks. Nowhere did it mention a city park. Now, to much dismay, Lisbon leaders are looking to outlaw sex offenders from living in their parks.

Jerry Gemar: “Not to be rude in any particular way to anybody but it was a serious issue with a lot of people so we thought it was important for us to put an ordinance in place to prohibit that from happening anymore.”

For protective parents, it's a long time coming. Of course, you can never be too sure, who else is also keeping a close eye on a child.

Jennifer Hehn: “Even though you live in a small town, you got to be careful. Always, you hear of stuff happening anywhere.”

The council will vote on the ordinance next month. Offenders would still be able to go to a park, just not take up residence. Shjerve served 12 years for having sex or fondling two girls between 8 and 13 years old.

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