A convicted sex offender who plans on opening a shop next to a toy store in downtown Battle Creek has been told by police he cannot be at his business and has been asked by his business partner to step down.
Reece Adkins, who pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13 in May 2000, plans to open Cereal City Food Auction, at 56 W. Michigan Ave., on Aug. 26.
Major Jim Grafton of the Battle Creek Police Department said Wednesday that Adkins was told Monday not to be in the space that houses his business because it is within 1,000 feet of Battle Creek Central High School and St. Philip Catholic schools.
Adkins, who is required to register with the state as a sex offender for the rest of his life, is prohibited by law from working or living within 1,000 feet of a school.
Adkins’s business partner, Cindy Dian, said Tuesday that she has asked him to publicly step down after reports of his criminal past surfaced in the media.
“The idea of the business is to help low-income people with food,” Dian said. “I have taken this week off to think and pray as to how to proceed.
“I feel that the damage that has been done by the media is irreparable,” she added. “There’s no way that any business can start after this, but, if told that I have to, I will try my best.”
Adkins, a former independent contractorfor the Battle Creek Enquirer who delivered newspapers, said Tuesday that he doesn’t know if he will step down.
Three weeks ago, he said, a Battle Creek Police Department employee who works with registered sex offenders told him that he could open the business because it was more than 1,000 feet from a school.
The same officer, Adkins said, told him Monday that the shop actually was within 1,000 feet of a school.
Grafton said the department did tell Adkins the business was more than 1,000 feet from a school. He said Adkins first told the officer in charge of tracking registered sex offenders that the business was at 56 Michigan Ave.
Grafton said his department later informed Adkins of the mistake after the officer checked to verify the location and realized it was within 1,000 feet of a school because it was located on 56 W. Michigan Ave., not 56 E. Michigan Ave.
Adkins said he’s now launched an investigation into the matter. “I don’t know if I’m going to step down or not because my investigation is not done,” Adkins said.
Adkins said he believes he has paid his debt to society.
“It’s something that’s behind me,” Adkins said Friday. “I’ve learned from the mistakes. I’m trying to move forward because a lot of people have criminal histories.
“It’s something you don’t need to live the rest of your life against,” he added. “I’ve done my time; I deserve a chance. I’ve been out of the community going on five years now and I’ve not been in trouble since.”
Adkins was sentenced to four years, two months to 15 years in June 2000, He was released in 2010, returned to prison in 2012 on a technicality, and then was released for good in 2014.
The new business, Cereal City Food Auction, also would be located next to Hall of Toys.
Hall of Toys owners Brett and Melanie Hall posted on Facebook that they were not aware that the new business next door would be run by a registered sex offender.
Brett Hall declined to comment Wednesday and referred a reporter to the Facebook post.
“As parents of young children ourselves, we understand the concerns voiced by the community and have spoken to our landlord and the Downtown Development Officer about helping that business find a location that is further away from a place where children regularly play,” the post stated.
“We believe that a solution exists that allows the gentleman in question to have a fresh start while also ensuring the families that regularly visit us feel safe. We will stay abreast of the situation and would be happy to answer any questions you have. Thank you for your support in this matter.”
Adkins tried to run for a seat on the city commission this year, but did not collect enough signatures by the registration deadline.
He also tried to run for a seat on the city commission in 1999, about a year before he pleaded guilty to the sexual assault charge.
Dian and Adkins said they signed a one-year lease with an option for three more years, but building owner John Hennink said Adkins is not on the lease.
“(Adkins) has no lease with me,” Hennink said. “If Cindy wants out of the lease, I would be willing to do so. My lease is with her.”
John Hart, the city’s downtown development director, said he was not aware Adkins was opening a business downtown.
“Of course, we’re concerned with the perception of the downtown being a safe place to live, work, play and invest in, but there’s no real comment from us as it relates to someone’s status with the law,” Hart said Tuesday. “It only becomes a concern to us if there might be a situation with an owner that might rise to a police investigation.
“We don’t pick and choose who opens a business,” he added. “Society will decide by their pleasure or displeasure of an owner’s actions whether they will frequent a store or not.”
Adkins and Dian said their goal was to help low-income shoppers and others who need to make the most of their grocery money.
If opened, Cereal City Food Auction would have a platform and podium for an auctioneer and chairs for food shoppers. Each shopper would get a bidding paddle with a number on it. Shoppers would then bid for non-perishable food items, such as canned soups and fruits.