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Level III sex offender released in the area

Willard Edwin Cousins

Willard Edwin Cousins, 43, a registered sex offender, may have moved to the Park Rapids area on Wednesday.

Cousins is registered as a predatory offender, Risk Level III. According to Minnesota Statutes 244.052, subdivision 3, Risk Level III is assigned to "an offender whose risk assessment score indicates a high risk of reoffense." Due to this registration, public notification is required.

According to a press release Wednesday from the Park Rapids Police Department, Cousins reported a homeless status within the city of Park Rapids. In an updated release on Thursday, the police said that Cousins was not moving to the city.

Police Chief Jeff Appel said that he spoke with Cousins to discuss his homeless status and confirmed that he would not be living within the City of Park Rapids. Appel said he could not provide further information until the jurisdiction in which Cousins is actually living releases a public notification.

As of press time, the Enterprise has received no further information about where Cousins will live.

"This individual has served the sentence imposed on him by the court," the news release stated.

In a social media comment, the Park Rapids Police Department added that "Cousins is not on probation and a homeless status requires a weekly check-in with law enforcement."

According to information from the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC), Cousins has been incarcerated since April 2011 after being sentenced in February 2008 to 10 years in prison for the felony of knowingly violating registration requirements as a predatory offender. He was released Wednesday from the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Rush City.

According to court data, Cousins' record includes gross misdemeanor convictions for indecent exposure in 1996 in Hubbard County and 2003 in Pipestone County.

Cousins has a history of sexual contact with females, teen through adult, known and unknown to him, according to DOC public registrant information. Contact included sexual touching and exposure. Cousins took advantage of a female teen's developmental disability and made harassing phone calls to adult females.

Cousins' other convictions since 1995 include disorderly conduct, gross misdemeanor harassment, failure to provide proof of insurance, shoplifting, driving while impaired, driving with an open bottle, reckless driving, reckless discharge of a weapon, felony unlawful possession of a firearm and, most recently in December 2008, felony possession of a pistol or assault weapon within 10 years of conviction for a violent crime, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Asked about the thinking behind releasing an inmate to a homeless situation, Deneen Clemons, an associate warden and public relations liaison at the Rush City facility, said, "When an offender expires, we don't have anything to do with their planning when they're released."

Clemons clarified that by "expires" she means "completes his sentence."

In contrast to a release plan that is created when an inmate receives probation, parole or some form of conditional release, "when they expire, they're released from the prison, and they're essentially on their own," she said. "The facility is not obligated to know where they're going. He served his time to expiration. So, he's let out of the facility, and he's on his own to go where he chooses."