Richard Croxton – Repeat Sex Offender


It took the justice system more than 10 years to put Richard Croxton in prison for sex crimes against children, but even after he finished his prison term, society still grappled with what to do with him.

At a trial last month, a jury concluded that Croxton, 62, met Missouri’s definition of a sexually violent predator. Circuit Judge Jon Cunningham then committed him to a state mental facility. He’ll stay there until he is deemed no longer to be a threat. He is one of about 20 sex offenders committed each year in the state.

Croxton had not completed a treatment program while he was imprisoned, and his case was reviewed by psychiatrists, prosecutors and other experts who asked the attorney general’s office to pursue commitment.

But Eric Selig, one of the attorneys who represented Croxton, said, “Individuals should get time for their crime on the front end. They shouldn’t, as they’re being released, have to get an additional sentence.”

Croxton’s family, who said during the trial that they would watch over him on their farm in Illinois if he were released, declined to comment.

The mother of one of Croxton’s victims, from St. Charles County, said Croxton needed to get help.

“Richard is an old man now, but that doesn’t mean that he can stop doing what he did,” she said. “It just means he has a few more years on him.”

YEARS OF VICTIMS

Croxton’s St. Charles County victim was not his first. In the trial last month, Assistant Attorney General David Hansen told the jury about Croxton’s past.

Croxton befriended children and their families in the Victoria, Texas, area in the early 1980s. After he was caught trying to develop pictures of young girls, authorities learned that he had fondled them.

He pleaded guilty to molestation charges in 1983 and got probation.

Croxton then went to Albuquerque, N.M., where he again was accused of fondling young girls but was not convicted. He made his way to St. Charles County, where the mother of his victim here said she and her family had known nothing of his past.

“We thought he was just a nice person,” she said.

So nice, in fact, that when she and her family moved out of an apartment and into a home in St. Peters, he asked to move in with them and they agreed.

On May 30 and 31, 1992, Croxton fondled their 8-year-old daughter. When she told her parents, they called police. The victim’s mother said she almost took matters into her own hands.

“I went out the front door with a knife in my hand,” she said. “It took four police officers to hold me back.”

Croxton pleaded guilty on Dec. 7, 1992. Part of his plea agreement was a sentence that would send him to Texas to serve 10 years in prison. The case garnered media attention when Circuit Judge David A. Dalton released Croxton and ordered him to go to Texas on his own.

Croxton detoured instead to his parents’ home in Illinois, but he eventually traveled to Texas. A judge there, though, refused to revoke his probation and ordered him back to Missouri.

He started serving a prison sentence in Missouri, but his new attorney got a judge to set aside the previous guilty plea and set the case for trial again.

Finally, on April 7, 1995, Croxton pleaded guilty to one count of sodomy and received a 10-year prison sentence. He served the sentence with some credit for time served during the previous legal wrangling.

The Legislature, meanwhile, passed a law in 1998 — while Croxton was in prison — that made it possible for the attorney general’s office to pursue civil commitments for sex offenders.

MENTAL ABNORMALITY

In order to have them committed under the law’s current form, the state has to prove that the offender is a sexually violent predator.

The statute’s definition requires a judge or jury to find that the offender has a mental abnormality that makes it more likely than not that he or she will commit another sex offense.

Croxton was placed in the custody of the Department of Mental Health in November 2003 after a probable cause hearing. His civil commitment case was postponed several times until it finally came to trial in November.

At the trial, much of the testimony came from two psychologists who disagreed on the likelihood that Croxton would commit another offense if released.

Ultimately, the jury sided with the state. Two weeks ago, Cunningham denied Selig’s request for a new trial. Selig said he didn’t know whether Croxton would appeal.

Since the sexually violent predator law took effect on Jan. 1, 1999, the state has had 205 people referred to the attorney general’s office. Not all make it to trial.

Bob Bax, a spokesman for the Department of Mental Health, said 144 people were currently in the program. No one has been released for completing treatment, he said. Several have had their commitments overturned by the courts, he said.

One was a woman who was released because the courts found there wasn’t enough study of female offenders’ recidivism rates.

The attorney general’s office said 48 cases are pending.

Croxton’s St. Charles County victim, now 24, is married with a child of her own. She is moving on with her life. But no one in her family approaches life the same way, even though 15 years have washed away some of the hurt.

Despite never wanting to see Croxton or have him around her family again, the victim’s mother summarized his situation this way:

“Maybe they will find help for Richard, maybe they won’t. You hope they do, though. That’s all you can say.”

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