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— Did they check Kos's record before hiring him? "First of all, he gave us a different name [Rudy Edward rather than Rudy Kos]. We did check civil and criminal indexes here in California and also references from places where he had worked previously, and they all checked out. And yes, he had a pleasing personality."

There's some regret in Walters's voice. Then he laughs. "It's not funny. It's a tragic situation. It was a shock, to say the least."

Christina Starr, who is part owner with her husband in the State Street apartments, has never met Kos, "[but] he's been a very quiet person and pays his rent," she says. And yes, she had heard the buzz. "I didn't give much weight to it, actually, because we never got any legal [evidence] from anybody. He's been a very good tenant. I get real angry with the sensationalism that the media does with most everything. We never heard anything from the police, and they certainly were [in a position to tell us]."

"He's a danger on your streets," insists Tom Economus, a victim of a pedophile priest in his own childhood and now president of Linkup, a Chicago-based organization for victims of clergy abuse. Father Economus is a priest in the Independent Catholic Church, a branch that broke away in 1870 over the issue of papal infallibility. "There is no cure for pedophilia," says Economus. "The American Psychiatric Association tells us that. If he were in ongoing treatment and was going in every week for shots of Depo Provera [progesterone used to diminish male sex drive], that would lower the risk of him [striking again], but you just don't know."

Worse, says Economus, the greater the pressures on the molester, the greater the risk to children. "Many of these men who were sex abusers come out of jail, and the next level that they go to is abusing a child and then murdering the child. The hatred has built up. We have seen that happen far too many times. When you're under scrutiny [as Kos is], and you've just lost this case, and you're coming up for a [criminal] trial case, and 11 victims have come forward, that's an incredible amount of pressure, and you just never know if the pressure is so overwhelming that someone would snap."

Economus says a basic problem is the law. Or laws. "You've got 50 states, and they've all got 50 different laws. The trouble with Megan's Law is it only applies to those who have been convicted. We need some kind of federal law that protects our kids! Against possible perpetrators, people who have had allegations brought against themI. I know we're on real shaky ground with civil rights, but in these specific cases like Rudy Kos's, something should be done. The person needs to be put someplace [out of society] until they have their day in court. Right now, the laws protect the perpetrators and not the victims. And the victims happen to be our children."

"Sexual abuse is happening in about one in four homes across the country," says Melissa Knight-Fine of the Sacramento-based Legislative Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse. The largest single category, she says, is stepfathers abusing their stepdaughters. But teachers, scoutmasters, and priests who target children tend to have multiple, "often hundreds" of victims.

Knight-Fine says an important law went into force January 1 mandating that clergy report child abuse to law enforcement. And since 1994, it has been possible to lift statutes of limitations where sexual abuse is strongly suspected. "This is important because so many abusers silence children by threatening to kill them or saying the child's mother will kill herself if she ever found out," says Knight-Fine. "So the victims don't have the courage to speak out till they grow up - past the six-year statute of limitations."

Knight-Fine feels the Roman Catholic Church should take prime responsibility for Father Kos. "They can't just wash their hands of it when you have children endangered. In the past they have actually continued to support priests who have abused children. Has the [diocese] actively attempted to assure that [San Diego] children are not in danger of being hurt? It's a very, very powerful church. They certainly have resources to ensure that Father Kos isn't in contact with children. Are they taking responsibility?"

The diocese of San Diego sees it differently. "If he's here, he's here as a private citizen," says Bernadeane Carr, the San Diego diocesan spokesperson. "He has not contacted the diocese. The diocese has not contacted him. That's the information that we have."

But with children's lives at stake, does the local diocese feel any responsibility for this errant priest? Carr allows a long silence. "It would be a question of whether there is any legal responsibility, and then if there is any canonical responsibility. Those would be the two questions that would need to be answered." Carr promised to ask church lawyers about the local diocese's responsibilities but had not responded by press time.

* * *

"I'm not a hardened criminal," Kos told the Dallas Morning News on May 25 when he spoke about the prospect of going to prison. He feared inmates would kill him. "I'd be absolutely defenseless."

"Our penitentiary system takes precautions to protect certain types of offenders," says Dallas's first assistant district attorney Kinne, "and everyone who goes to the penitentiary for child abuse doesn't end up dead. I don't think that'll happen."

Economus is afraid Kos will commit suicide. "Last year I worked with 26 victims in the [Father] Ted Llanos case up in Long Beach. On December 30, 1996, the police were on their way to arrest him, when he committed suicide. His mind was absolutely tortured. The church cut him off, they discontinued his treatment, he had 26 victims coming after him, where else could he go?"

Economus isn't optimistic for people like Kos. "I'm hoping that people in the mental health field can come to some conclusion on this. They keep saying that if you castrate [offenders] and keep them on Depo Provera and in intense therapy in an ongoing process, that you continue to lower the risk. That's treating the symptoms, but we have to get to the problem."

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