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Parole of Rapist Stirs Resentment

September 27, 1999

DEWITT, Ark. (AP) _ After 14 years behind bars, convicted rapist Wayne Dumond is set to head home to a huge catfish dinner and a fresh start as a welder in the family business.

Then the welcome may end.

Many in this rural community plan to keep their distance from Arkansas’ most infamous convicted rapist. Some apparently are unconvinced that Dumond has suffered enough, although he was castrated _ he says by masked vigilantes _ before he was sent to prison.

``The word that I would choose is fearful, reluctant,″ said Betty Watson, whose husband was pastor at the church Dumond attended. ``We are a small community, we embrace each other, we love each other. But still, with the history he has, it is uneasy.″

Dumond, 50, was convicted in the 1984 rape of Ashley Stevens, a 17-year-old high school cheerleader from Forrest City and a distant cousin of President Clinton, who was governor at the time of the assault and trial.

Dumond was at his home in Forrest City awaiting trial when his testicles were cut off. The former St. Francis County Sheriff later displayed them in a jar on his office desk. No one was arrested for the attack, and Dumond later won a $100,000 jury verdict against the sheriff for emotional distress over the display.

Dumond’s family say people have no reason to fear him.

``He’s not going to do anything,″ said his younger brother, Bobby Dumond. ``I don’t understand why everyone is making a big deal about it.″

As for his brother’s safety, Bobby Dumond said: ``There’s not going to be a problem. ... There will be a family member with him at all times.″

The state Post-Prison Transfer Board, which voted 5-0 to parole Dumond, said they are convinced he poses no threat. He is to be freed in the next month or two, after completing a pre-release program.

Dumond plans to live with his stepmom, Lula Mae Dumond, and work at City Welding Shop, where the staff includes his son Joey, brother Bobby and brother-in-law Mike Gray.

Dumond also must undergo mental-health counseling and will be connected to an electronic monitor indefinitely. He won’t be allowed to leave Arkansas County or contact Ms. Stevens or her family.

That’s little comfort for some residents.

Dale Sloate, who lives a block from Dumond’s future workplace, has warned his 9-year-old grandson to stop riding his bicycle in the gravel parking lot of the welding shop.

Waitress Candace Bunch, who has children ages 15, 10 and 7, said she also is scared.

``I’d rather he not be here,″ she said. ``I know he supposedly can’t do anything, but pressure is going to build upon him out here, and it ain’t going to take much to make that man go off.″

Others have a more forgiving attitude. Some believe he was innocent of the rape _ framed because police needed a suspect and he had a criminal history.

``If it had been anybody else besides Clinton’s cousin, I don’t think he’d have got the conviction he got,″ said Denise Stephens, a secretary at the Arkansas County sheriff’s office in DeWitt. ``I think he’s been mistreated not only by the public, but by politics.″

Dumond originally was sentenced to life plus 20 years. But in 1992, Lt. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, while acting as governor, reduced the sentence to 39 1/2 years, which made Dumond eligible for parole.

Gov. Mike Huckabee announced in September 1996 that he intended to free Dumond, citing ``serious questions″ about Dumond’s guilt. But Huckabee reconsidered after protests by the victim’s family and state legislators.

In 1972, Dumond was charged in Oklahoma in the death of man who was bludgeoned with a claw hammer, but the charge eventually was dropped. A little over a year later, after moving to Washington, Dumond pleaded guilty to second-degree assault for attacking a woman in a mall parking lot. A five-year sentence was deferred on condition he abstain from drugs and receive mental treatment.

In 1976, after moving to DeWitt, he was charged with raping a 22-year-old woman at knifepoint while she lay in bed with her 3-year-old daughter. According to a state police report, Dumond confessed to the attack, but the woman said she dropped the charge after Dumond agreed to counseling and to stay out of town unless accompanied by a relative.

``The people who would just flippantly say, ‘He’s paid his dues, he’s entitled to his life,’ just don’t know the whole story,″ said Mayor Carroll Lester Jr.

But the Dumond family says it is the mayor _ and others fanning opposition _ who don’t know the full story.

``I don’t pay no attention to them. People around DeWitt, they don’t know anything they’re talking about,″ said Dumond’s youngest son, Joey, 23, who was 9 when his dad went to prison.

For a week or so now, Bobby Dumond has been saving about 75 catfish in his freezer _ all caught from the Arkansas River _ for his brother’s first post-prison meal.

``We’re going to have a lot of family together and have a big dinner,″ he said. ``He’s been gone so long, we want to make him feel wanted.″

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