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Police: Sex offender raped girl, tried to enter Fort Plain flood shelter

FORT PLAIN -- After devastating floods left families looking for a place to stay, Fort Plain police say a homeless man lied his way in to a shelter, failing to report that he was a sex offender.  They've since found reason to believe the same man had repeated sexual contact with a young victim in the village.

Someone at the shelter suspected David Dennis, 30, was a sex offender even though he falsified documents to give no indication he was.  Dennis is also believed have had contact with that victim in an abandoned home.  Police revealed these details after Dennis' first arrest at the shelter.

"There was a lot of people there, a lot of emotions, a lot of kids don't understand what's going on they don't have their toys, their home," said Vicki Schrom.

Schrom spent time at the Harry Hoag Elementary School shelter when flood waters tore through Fort Plain.  Nearly one hundred people relied on the shelter from that day.  So did a man who did not divulge to personnel what police have since -- that David Dennis was a registered sex offender.  The American Red Cross was on hand to help families, and help them fill out paperwork.

"They have to check a box and let us know if there's anything they need to report to authorities before they come in to the shelter and that's for any kind of offense like a sex offender offense," said Tom Lindberg with the Red Cross.

When someone suspected Dennis should be denied entry, shelter coordinators called the cops.

"The shelter manager took the correct action and brought it to the attention of law enforcement authorities," Lindberg said.  Dennis was in the shelter "just long enough for someone else to recognize him," Lindberg said.

Since his arrest, police report Dennis also victimized a fourteen year-old victim in Fort Plain and had contact with her after breaking in to an abandoned home.  One man who was at the shelter and has a small child says despite Dennis' past, or present, he should have been let in.

"It's an emergency," said Michael Higgins.  "If someone needs help, help them out."

When asked if the man filled in the box as he should have, would he have been allowed in the shelter, Lindberg said,  "that would have been a discussion that the shelter manager would have had with the local law enforcement authorities, and it really would have been up to them to decide."

That could mean an individual is segregated from the general population at the shelter or he wouldn't be allowed in at all.  It's handled on a case by case basis.

The Red Cross' obligation is to help and protect shelter residents.  If Dennis was determined to be a threat, he would been removed.

Dennis now faces charges of rape, burglary, and endangering the welfare of a child.  Police can't release a mug shot of Dennis because they're still trying to get back on their feet -- running the station out of a trailer since their main office was flooded.
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