Convicted sex offender commits suicide over neighborhood signs
Last update: April 23, 2005
OCALA -- A convicted sex offender apparently committed suicide in despair over signs posted in his neighborhood calling him a "child rapist."
Clovis Ivan Claxton was found dead by his father Thursday with one of the signs beside his body, less than a day after his release from a psychiatric hospital.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office is investigating, and autopsy was scheduled for Friday.
Claxton's death follows the high-profile arrests of sex offenders in the separate killings of two Florida girls less than seven weeks apart. State lawmakers have responded by passing a bill to require lifetime supervision of some child sex offenders.
Bright yellow, laminated signs displaying Claxton's picture, date of birth, address and the words "child rapist" appeared earlier this week on utility poles in his neighborhood after a county commissioner proposed posting such information in the community. The sheriff rejected the idea.
"I think this is a clear example of an unintended consequence, which can occur when we go beyond what we call police protocol when handling sex offenders," Sheriff Ed Dean said. "I understand the concern of parents for their children. But we must not allow hysteria to take place."
After seeing the signs, Claxton, 38, told the sheriff's office that he felt "extremely scared and feels that people in the neighborhood are now out to possibly hurt him."
When he threatened suicide, he was involuntarily committed to the mental health hospital Tuesday and released the next day.
Claxton was convicted in Washington state in 1991 of molesting a 9-year-old girl. He was 20 at the time, but his mother said he was developmentally much younger due to a brain injury.
Jane Claxton blames County Commissioner Randy Harris, who proposed the flyers, for her son's death.
"Just don't get on the bandwagon," she said. "There's going to be other (deaths) if Randy Harris has his way."
She said her son required constant care and recently relied on leg braces and a wheelchair.
"He hasn't been in trouble for 18 years, and he's branded for life," she said.
Harris said sex offenders need to take responsibility for their actions.
"I don't blame his death to the signs," he said, adding he was undeterred in his quest to alert people to sex offenders living in their neighborhoods.
Marion County northwest of Orlando has more than 600 registered sex offenders.
Information from: Ocala Star-Banner, http://www.starbanner.com/