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Sex offender lived on Gonzaga high school campus

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Local,DC,Crime,Scott McCabe

A convicted sex offender lived on the campus of an elite private school for more than a month before authorities noticed, according to court documents.

Kenneth P. Hernandez, 43, had recently been released from prison on a drug-dealing conviction last and found shelter at the Father McKenna Center, a place for homeless people on the campus of the Gonzaga College High School in downtown D.C.

U.S. marshals deputies looking for Hernandez were shocked to learn the address he had provided to his parole officer turned out to be on the grounds of the prominent Catholic high school.

Hernandez was convicted of sexually abusing a young child in 1998.

"The victim was a 5-year-old boy, and he's registered at an all-boy campus," said Deputy Marshal Bill Straw.

Gonzaga school officials did not return calls for comment.

Thomas Howarth, director of the Father McKenna Center, said Hernandez was barred from using the center's services as soon as the shelter learned of his criminal sex offense.

"We have college students and high school students here," Howarth said. "The last thing we want is for a sex offender to be on the property."

According to charging documents, Hernandez had stayed at the shelter each night between New Year's Eve and Feb. 3, except for Jan. 19.

The shelter is open during the winter months to 25 men regardless of the weather. Meals are also provided. Guests of the drop-in shelter can take showers from 8:30 to 10:45 a.m., have their mail dropped off there, and get breakfast and lunch.

"I can't work with the homeless and do it on a risk-free basis," Howarth said. "The only solution is that we wouldn't open our doors to people who would otherwise freeze on the street, or I would have to run a $35 background check on every person who comes through here."

Hernandez was arrested two weeks ago for failure to register as a sex offender.

According to charging documents, Hernandez notified his parole officer in January that he was living at 19 I St. NE, the Father McKenna Center, but he never updated his address with the D.C. sex offender registry.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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