Sex offender release raises school, notification questions

Some Oakwood residents were surprised and upset to see James Uphoff, convicted last year on child pornography charges, back in their neighborhood this week with no notice.

Uphoff was released from prison Saturday, and his home is one block from Oakwood’s junior high/senior high complex. Montgomery County Sheriff’s officials said Wednesday that Uphoff is required to move within 30 days because he is within 1,000 feet of the school.

But Sgt. Julie Stephens said Ohio law does not call for postcard notification of neighbors for Tier 2 sex offenders like Uphoff — the middle level of the three-tier system.

“That’s why we have our website, and people can go there to sign up for alerts, putting their address in and covering any radius up to two miles,” Stephens said. “So if anyone comes into their neighborhood, they’ll automatically be alerted via email, to everybody except juvenile offenders.”

Stephens said Uphoff is “actively working with our office to find another place to live.”

Uphoff, 78, is a former Wright State education professor, volunteer courtroom advocate for abused children, and 18-year member of Oakwood’s school board through 2007.

Authorities said Uphoff possessed hundreds of pornographic images, some of naked teenage boys, as well as hundreds of erotic stories about sexual acts involving children. He was not charged with any type of physical sexual contact with minors.

Last September, Uphoff was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on child pornography charges.

Amy Korab, a mother of five boys ranging from age 3 to college student, lives next door to Uphoff and said she wishes there was a stronger notification system. She said she’s relieved Uphoff will have to move and for now is not letting her younger boys play on their backyard swing set or trampoline.

“I don’t want my kids outside,” Korab said. “If he likes to look at boys, I don’t want him looking at my little boys. I have a 3-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 13-year old.”

Korab said more than a dozen young children live on their block, and many more walk past on their way to school.

Uphoff could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Oakwood Schools Superintendent Kyle Ramey said the city’s public safety department informed the school district of Uphoff’s release, but he said the district would not send any notification to students or parents.

“If someone wants to call and talk, we can do that,” said Ramey, who lives on the same block as Korab and Uphoff. “Or if people have an issue, they can call the sheriff or his probation officer.”

Ramey said there were no incidents involving Uphoff while he served on the school board from 1989 through 2007.

“We’re saddened to hear about the situation and we hope he gets the help that he needs,” Ramey said.

Stephens said the purpose of the sex offender registry is not to trigger a “lynch mob” or drive people out of places where they have a right to live, but to help residents make decisions for their safety. She noted that only rape and other extremely severe cases result in postcard notification.

“Hopefully this will raise the awareness to get more people to visit the web site, because you’re not going to know about a Tier 1 or Tier 2 offender in your neighborhood if you don’t,” Stephens said, adding that the site has tips on talking to children about these issues.

“If you sign up for alerts, it’s going to pop up. That’s an added bit of safety for you and your family.”