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Parole of rapist stirs resentment, fear in hometown

Updated:
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."

So uneasy, she adds, "I've heard people say, `We'll kill him,'
that he won't live long."

Ms. Watson is not the only one who's heard that talk.

"More than one person has expressed an interest in doing Mr.
Dumond bodily harm, up to and including the termination of his
life," Mayor Carroll Lester Jr. said.

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, he says by intruders who used fishing line.
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 prerelease
program.

Dumond plans to live with his stepmother, 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 391/2 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," the
mayor said.

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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