Residents cast wary eye at Pinellas halfway house - FOX 13 News

Residents cast wary eye at Pinellas halfway house

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CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

As a career criminal who has been convicted of burglary and grand theft appeared before a judge Thursday on rape and attempted murder charges, some Pinellas County residents were wondering why he was living in their neighborhood in the first place.

Dustin Kennedy, 28, was arrested Wednesday at the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center, a halfway house in Clearwater where he was under supervision by the Department of Corrections.

Investigators say just days before Christmas, he grabbed a 17-year-old girl from a bus stop on Whitney Road and sexually assaulted her.

Kennedy had been living at the halfway house just blocks away -- and it's not the first time the facility has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

In October, another inmate from the re-entry center was charged with double murder after detectives say he stole his girlfriend's gun, broke into a home in St. Pete and killed two men: 51-year-old Bruce Johnson and 36-year-old Arthur Regula. The inmate, Michael Scott Norris, then tried to cover it all up by setting the house on fire, Pinellas investigators said.

Residents near the halfway house are concerned. Steve Interdonato is the manager of a bike shop next door. He says when the felons moved into the neighborhood, his business suffered,

"We shouldn't have 300 felons in a residential neighborhood. That's what killed most of our business. This was a thriving retail business," Interdonato said.

The Department of Corrections says Kennedy was scheduled to be released in February. While they won't comment on an ongoing investigation, they say for the majority of inmates, the facility is helpful.

Crime numbers from the Pinellas Sheriff's Office show after the halfway house opened in 2008, calls for possible escapes went up the following year.

Residents like Dave Stetzel, who lives at a nearby mobile home park, are sick and tired of being on guard.

"I don't like it, it's just too close to home," Stetzel said.

Kennedy is now charged with sexual battery, attempted felony murder, strong-arm robbery and kidnapping.

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PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Felon on work release killed two men, police say:
http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/19737685/2012/10/04/felon-on-work-release-killed-two-st-pete-men-police-say

Suspected rapist arrested at halfway house:
http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/20490219/2013/01/02/suspected-rapist-arrested-at-halfway-house

 

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