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Residents Unhappy About Ax-Wielding Rapist In The Neighborhood

June 15, 1988

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Some residents of a quiet Tampa neighborhood say they are unhappy and fearful to find that their new neighbor is Lawrence Singleton, who was convicted in California of raping a girl and chopping her arms off.

″We don’t want him here. Let them ship him back to California,″ said Winston Whittle, a retiree living directly across the street. ″Maybe commmunity pressure could be put on him. If it could be done out in California, it could be done here.″

Singleton, 60, was convicted of raping a 15-year-old hitchhiker, chopping her arms off above the elbow and leaving her for dead along a rural roadside southeast of San Francisco in 1978. The former merchant seaman, who grew up in Tampa, served eight years of a 14-year sentence.

When Singleton was released on parole, residents of a number of California communities raised loudly vocal campaigns when their communities were mentioned as possible homes for the notorious inmate. One town even filed a lawsuit.

Eventually, Singleton wound up serving his parole while housed in a mobile home on the grounds of San Quentin prison.

After he finished parole in April, Singleton came back to his home town and for his Florida driver’s license registered his address as that of his brother, Walter Singleton, in the Forest Hills section of Tampa.

On Monday, he also registered with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to satisfy a state law requiring felons entering the state to register with authorities.

Ed Williams, agent in charge of the enforcement agency in Tampa, said Singleton was photographed and fingerprinted and told agents he was receiving Social Security.

Forest Hills is a quiet, well-kept section where houses sit on big lots, shaded by spreading oaks. Many of the residents are retired.

Men in the area say women, especially widows and those living alone, are afraid.

A gray-haired lady who lives with her sister and their little white poodle acknowledged being worried. ″Naturally, we’re afraid,″ she said, asking that her name not be used.

Robert Hosak lives next door to Whittle. He has owned his own home for 20 years and says Walter Singleton and his wife Diane have lived across the street for about that same length of time.

″She has been a good neighbor,″ Hosak said of Mrs. Singleton. ″I feel sorry for the family. He’s a relative. What can they do?″

Hosak said he followed the Singleton case 10 years ago in the newspapers but didn’t know until Monday that Singleton was related to the family in his neighborhood.

″The fault isn’t his. It’s the system’s fault for letting him out,″ Hosak said.

Lillian Shepler also doesn’t like the idea of Singleton living nearby.

″I feel he needs custodial care. Being shunted wherever he goes is no picnic,″ she said. ″But the courts have found him guilty and you have to live with the knowledge that he’s living next door. You never know, someone could go beserk.″

Singleton tries to avoid headlines and maintains his innocence, saying he has considered filing a complaint against the woman he was convicted of raping. The woman, now 24, lives in seclusion in the Pacific Northwest.