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The sex offender next door: West Fargo mom upset man convicted of abusing her children lives nearby

Jen Silverman laments the fact that a man who is convicted of sexually abusing three of her children has been allowed to return to his West Fargo home neighboring hers. His garage abuts the yard housing her children's play equipment. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

WEST FARGO - In the backyard, barely 10 feet separates the two homes.

At 102 F St. are Jen Silverman and her seven kids, three of whom testified in a Cass County trial in late May that found Ned D. VanDyke guilty of sexually abusing them.

At 107 E St. is VanDyke, despite a court order that bars the convicted child molester from being within 300 yards of his victims.

Silverman isn't worried about her children's safety, necessarily. It just disturbs her that a man convicted of sexually abusing her kids can remain next door, and police can't stop him.

"It's the mental weight of having to always know he is there," Silverman said. "There ought to be something they can do."

It is a weight Silverman's family will apparently have to bear until Aug. 8, when VanDyke is scheduled to be sentenced following a pre-sentence investigation by state corrections officers.

West Fargo police say the situation is a rare one, and unless VanDyke attempts to make contact with any of the children, they can't make the 75-year-old move as he awaits sentencing.

"We can't take him out of his castle," said Detective Sgt. Greg Warren. "How do we go about enforcing that when that's his property?"

Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan said he checked with Cass County prosecutors Tuesday and confirmed the no-

contact order issued by Judge Frank Racek when charges were filed in July includes a 300-yard buffer. However, Reitan said it's not considered a violation if VanDyke's residence is within that buffer zone.

"They said we wouldn't be able to prosecute," Reitan said.

Silverman said it's been a tough concept to explain to her children, who like her were elated at first on May 26 when a jury returned guilty verdicts for all three counts of Class A felony gross sexual imposition.

Frustration quickly eclipsed the satisfaction.

"From the perspective of the kids, how do you explain that?" Silverman said of the delay of nearly 2½ months. "For kids, August is so far away. That's the whole summer."

When a reporter knocked on VanDyke's door seeking comment, his wife said he didn't want to talk about his living situation.

"He's been living here for 25 years," said his wife, Linda VanDyke.

His wife did say VanDyke maintains that he is innocent.

In an acquittal motion filed Friday, VanDyke's lawyer argued that the jury verdicts should be thrown out because the children - two sisters ages 12 and 8 and a 9-year-old boy - were vague and inconsistent in their testimony. Defense attorney Mark Beauchene claimed in the motion that it seemed "incredible that the defendant would seek out victims of both sexes."

VanDyke is out of jail on bail of $10,000. Reid Brady, an assistant Cass County state's attorney who prosecuted the case, said after the verdict came in, Racek was asked to increase bail to $100,000 but denied the state's request.

Brady argued in favor of more bail by saying VanDyke had less incentive to return for his sentencing after he was found guilty. The defense noted he had no history of missing any court appearances, he said.

"I don't envision taking a second shot at trying to increase bail," Brady said.

Silverman said it didn't concern her that VanDyke was able to continue living in an adjacent property prior to the trial.

"You can't ask somebody to move based on allegations," she said.

She also said her children who were abused are in counseling and doing well, despite being betrayed by a man she said was a grandfather figure for the family.

"You can tell they feel that relief, knowing the jury believed them," she said.

The Forum typically does not publish information that may identify victims of sexual crimes, but Silverman said she wanted to draw attention to the issue because she feels too many people are afraid to speak about sexual abuse.

Her family is eager for the Aug. 8 sentencing date to arrive, though Silverman said it's also a matter they have to try to push out of their minds, for now.

"To a certain extent, you have to numb yourself to it to get on with life," she said.