DURHAM – The presence of a repeat rapist in their town has prompted some residents to lose sleep, others to call for a meeting, and one state lawmaker to introduce legislation.

“There’s a lot of questions,” said Durham resident Diana Peters.

On Wednesday, the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office informed residents that Ronald J. Leno, a homeowner on Meadow Road since September, was convicted of raping four women between 1978 and 1981 and was later classified as a “sexually dangerous person” by the state of Massachusetts.

Leno recently came to the attention of Brunswick police after a woman there filed a harassment order against him.

Two days after being notified, residents were angry and anxious about Leno’s presence in their town and about the lack of notification over the last nine months.

Rep. Mike Vaughan, R-Durham, said one Meadow Road resident he knows hasn’t slept well since learning of Leno’s background. “He’s worried about his wife and kids,” Vaughan said Friday.

In response, a community meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at Durham Elementary School to allow people to ask questions of law-enforcement officials. Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Capt. Raymond Lafrance said a low-risk sex offender did live in Durham several years ago, but this is the first time a high-risk offender has moved there.

“The first one is always the worst for the community,” he said.

Vaughan said he will introduce two pieces of legislation if re-elected to the Legislature in November.

One would propose that small communities without police departments be exempt from having to accept registered sex offenders. The second would create “civil commitments” to allow the state to involuntarily commit a person to a state mental hospital if the person’s condition is considered incurable and a threat to society.

Towns without police departments, such as Durham, lack regular police patrols, so there is little protection against a sexual predator, Vaughan said. “They have no way to deal with it except the obvious – personal confrontation,” he said. “They should be in places that have good patrols. The state needs to send a message that Maine is not a haven for people to hide out in the country until they decide to commit a crime.”

The so-called “civil commitments” exist in other states for people considered a danger, Vaughan said.

According to police, Leno’s record began in 1978, when he raped a woman he had just met in Hawaii. In the same year he raped an employee of a country club in Worcester, Mass. In 1980 Leno climbed through a former girlfriend’s bedroom window in Boston and raped her. While on probation in 1980 and working as a bartender, Leno dragged a woman into an office and raped her, police said.

In 1981 Leno went to prison. In 1984 he was declared a “sexually dangerous person” and committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater.

Diana Peters of Durham said she will attend the coming meeting. She went online and looked up Massachusetts news stories about Leno. The crimes he committed are scary, she said. “He needs to go to jail.”

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