Like most Ayer residents, I have been taking note of the ongoing case of the level 3 sex offender who has been attempting to move into a neighborhood next to the elderly-housing complex and town park, despite the existence of a bylaw prohibiting such a person from doing so.

This bylaw was overwhelmingly passed at Town Meeting over a year ago and should have been officially enacted well before this offender attempted to move in, but failure of a town official to post the law in a timely manner allowed the sex offender to have a legitimate case to get grandfathered in.

A court ruling was made in his favor several weeks ago that paved the way for him to move into the restricted area, and up until recently my greatest concern was how one of our elected officials could have made such an error. After reading some comments made in The Public Spirit last week by William McHugh, those concerns have been greatly magnified.

I do not object to the judge's decision, as it appears to be the proper legal ruling and we all must abide by the laws of our nation, regardless of how much we may not care for some of them. Technicalities are an inherent part of the system, and when they occur, we have little recourse but to cut our losses and adjust as needed.

However, I take great objection to some of the remarks made by Mr. McHugh, the sex offender's father-in-law and person who purchased the house for his daughter to live in. Apparently Mr. McHugh was not content with the victory in court, and felt the need to compound a difficult situation for many Ayer residents by making inflammatory remarks about our town, its officials and its citizens.

Mr. McHugh, who are you to sit in judgment of us, even questioning our Christianity, for trying to ensure the safety and tranquility of our community? Have you even taken a moment to look at your own situation and recognize your hypocrisy? Talk about throwing stones from a glass house! How could you think it was in your daughter and granddaughter's best interest to further enrage their neighbors by blasting them with remarks that will forever be embedded in their memories? This is a diverse small town where people look out for each other, and your "us versus them" mentality has set the tone for how they will be perceived in the community.

Aside from your insults to our town, perhaps the most offensive remarks you made were the ones trying to justify why you felt we should not be concerned about having a level 3 sex offender living among us. You said Ayer officials are "putting my daughter in the spotlight and implying that there is a repeat sex offender living in that house, or that he's any threat to the elderly or children. That's not correct. John does not have a history of that." You go on to say the offender, who was convicted of rape and indecent assault and battery on a person aged 14 or older, knew his victim and she was an adult woman, not a child. Talk about condemning someone with light praise! You are trying to make us feel safer because he "only" raped an adult woman he had already met? Let me tell you something, Mr. McHugh. Rape is rape. I can only assume you do not have a loved one who has been affected by this most heinous of acts, or you would not be so callous with your remarks. Trust me, being enlightened that your son-in-law is capable of raping a woman that he knows does not enhance anyone's ability to feel safer, quite the contrary.

I feel sorry for your daughter and granddaughter for what they will ultimately have to deal with, much of it due to your fanning the flames of an already explosive situation. How will they avoid being stigmatized in school, at the market, or at youth activities? They have earned the court-approved right to live in their house, but your comments will ensure they will never be given a reasonable chance to have a normal life. If they were to move into a new area with a fresh start, the information about having a criminal record would likely surface, but it would not be publicized to the degree your actions have facilitated. Because of your article, most residents will now assume the worst about the threat your son-in-law presents.

You finish by saying, "This should be the happiest time of their life with their marriage and a baby, but the town of Ayer has made it the worst." Sorry to be the bearer of more bad news, Mr. McHugh, but the person currently most responsible for that is you.

JEFF THOMAS

Ayer