Collateral Damage in America's War on Sex Crimes

Lila’s Story, Part 2: From Teen Romance to Life as a Registrant

Lila Folster, 63, understands that her family and Charles and Gretchen Parker share something in common. Folster, her husband Stephen, and her 28-year-old son Lorin live outside Chester, a 40-minute drive from where the Parkers were murdered. 

Lorin’s name, photo, and address have been splashed across public sex offender registries since 2004, when he was arrested and charged with having sex with a minor when he lived in Michigan.

His crime? In late 2003, at age 17, he was going to high school in the city of Port Huron. His big circle of friends included a 14-year-old freshman named Jessica. Lorin, Jessica, and Jessica’s older sister started palling around, and soon Lorin and Jessica were dating.

But one day Jessica’s older sister confronted Lorin. “You’ve got to stop seeing my little sister,” she said. “You’re going to get in trouble.”

Lorin got the message and broke up with Jessica. But she wasn’t having it. She kept coming to his house to see him. Lorin told her they had to cut their ties.

That would’ve been the end of it. Except Jessica’s mother started nosing in her daughter’s diary. In it, Jessica had written that she and Lorin had sex, and her mother found the entry.

Lorin claims that never happened—they never went beyond handholding and kissing. But Jessica’s mother was furious. Without talking to her daughter, she called the police, who told her to wait to bring charges until Lorin turned 18 so they’d stick.

Shortly after Lorin’s 18th birthday, he was hanging at a friend’s house when he got a call from his dad: “Hey, the cops are looking for you. You might want to see what the heck they want.” Lorin called in, and the police told him to meet them at a gas station nearby.

They took him in and booked him. “What am I charged with?” Lorin asked. They wouldn’t say. Eventually he found out: assault and third-degree criminal sexual conduct–a felony—for allegedly having sex with Jessica. He spent 45 days in jail awaiting his arraignment.

With no money, he had to take a court-appointed lawyer. The prosecution wanted him to get prison time and placement on the sex offender registry. Lorin’s lawyer told him that they were going to fight to keep him out of prison and off the registry. But shortly before the court appearance, the attorney advised Lorin to take a plea deal—the jury would never believe him, he said.

The plea bargain got Lorin three years of probation in lieu of prison and mandated that he have no contact with Jessica. But it included a poison pill worse than jail–placement on the state sex offender registry for 25 years.

Jessica tried to contact Lorin to apologize, but he wouldn’t return her calls. One day when Lorin was walking home from the store a block from his home, he heard a car pull up behind him and a voice said, “Please stop and talk to me for a minute, we won’t tell anyone, please!” It was Jessica.

Lorin broke into a full run for home. Talking to her could land him in prison. Lila found Lorin collapsed into a heap on the floor, shaking in fear.

With his personal details now on the state sex offender registry, Lorin couldn’t get a job. On applications, where the box asked whether he’d been convicted of a felony, he wrote “I’ll explain upon interview.” He got some interviews, but when he told employers he was a registrant, they’d shift in their seats and suddenly remember more urgent business. He never got a call back.

Out of work and desperate, Lorin moved to Iowa, where he knew friends. There they helped him get work by recommending him to employers who would overlook his status. Things were going ok until the boss at a family restaurant where he was working found his name on the registry and fired him.

He felt out of options before his life had even started. After a year struggling in Iowa, he tried going back to Michigan again. His dad lived in Port Huron, and he stayed with him. But his father didn’t understand why he couldn’t get a job. “Can’t you just get a lawyer and get that stuff removed?” he’d ask Lorin. “No I can’t,” Lauren told him. The law doesn’t allow that, and I don’t have the money for a lawyer.”

Unmoved, his dad kicked him out. With no place to live and out of money, he had one choice left—heading to South Carolina to live with Lila.

Next: “If You Even Look at Anyone in My Family, I’ll Kill You”

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