DES MOINES, Iowa -- A convicted sex offender is facing new charges that mirror crimes he was charged with more than two decades ago.
Des Moines police said 39-year-old Loren Lewis lured two boys, ages 11 and 12, from a home to a nearby school property.
“They were familiar with the suspect just from seeing him around the neighborhood,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek. “I think he used that as a way to introduce himself and make conversation with them.”
Near a playground at Morris Elementary School, police said Lewis demanded the boys disrobe.
“Fortunately, those boys had their heads on straight,” said Parizek. “They protested. One of them was able to run for help.”
The child’s response led to immediate help and put Lewis behind bars on charges of second-degree sex abuse, assault with intent for sexual abuse and two counts of enticing away a minor.
Twenty-two years ago Lewis pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit sex abuse and enticing away a child. That resulted in five years of probation and completion of a sex abuse program.
Today Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District contracts with Crossroads Behavioral Health Services for the Sex Offender Treatment Program.
“To decrease their recidivism and their risk of reoffending. Also to increase the offender’s ability to reintegrate into society,” said Crossroads Behavioral Health Services Clinical Director Wes Starlin.
According to Starlin, the recidivism rate in Iowa is 13 percent. He said they use a variety of techniques to try and decrease that number.
“The offender can talk through different things, possibly the root cause of what happened with them. Maybe it was a traumatic event that happened in their childhood. Maybe it’s sort of a glitch in their brain that doesn’t allow them to be in society effectively,” said Starlin.
The SOTP aims to help offenders replace the criminal behaviors.
“If they’re having an urge to do something inappropriate, maybe it’s as simple as snapping a rubber band on their wrist or maybe going for a walk. It could be shutting the door to their house and watching a movie,” said Starlin.
Each treatment plan is tailored to the offender. Some receive treatment weekly for up to 90 minutes, while others may only come in for half an hour every two weeks.
Starlin said evidence shows the programs are effective.
“In this line of work, in order to be here, I have to believe that somebody can completely rehabilitate,” Starlin said.
But in the end, it doesn’t always work.
“There are some people that no matter how much we try, no matter how much the community and all of their support system are there to help them, sometimes it’s just not enough,” said Starlin.
Lewis is being held in the Polk County Jail on a $50,000 cash-only bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 15.
Police said this is another reminder of the importance of open dialogue with kids.
“As we get to the point where we’re going to see kids moving around, back and forth to school, we definitely need to have the conversations with our children about what to do,” said Parizek. “If you see something, say something. And we as adults in our community, whether there are children or not, need to be on the lookout for anything that looks suspicious and make sure that the authorities are aware.”
The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault agrees.
“It’s really important to talk to kids about if someone is touching you and asks to keep it a secret, that’s not OK. Or if someone is doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s also not OK,” said Iowa CASA Communications Specialist Matty Smith.
“If you are in a circumstance like that, having a trusted adult that you can go to and talk about this with,” said Smith. “Talk to kids about who that trusted adult is. Is that you as a parent? Is that an uncle or aunt? Identifying who a safe person for them to go to and have that conversation with.”
If you are a victim or survivor of sexual abuse, assault or harassment and need help now, call the Iowa Victim Service Call Center at 1-800-770-1650 or text ‘IowaHelp’ to 20121.