Although it appears police and school officials have known about one area man for some time, a recent call to inmaricopa.com brought concern from at least one parent.
It turns out a Level 3 (high) sex offender lives across the street from the Legacy Montessori school which is on West Garvey Avenue.
Dean Puerner, 77, has been living in the neighborhood since his release from prison. Puerner is listed on the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Web site for registered sex offenders (az.gov/webapp/offender).
The caller, who would not reveal her identity, said she is upset that police reportedly only recently informed the school. The caller said police should have informed school officials before the school opened in its present location.
According to Maricopa Police Department Deputy Chief Kirk Fitch, Puerner, who was convicted of molestation of a child and public sexual indecency, has lived at the residence for at least a year.
“He (Puerner) was living there before the Maricopa Police Department was formed one year ago,” Fitch said. “When we became aware of his status, while it was still just the chief (Patrick Melvin) and I, we contacted the school, and they indicated they were already notified of the individual.”
Fitch said MPD has had preliminary meetings with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) about taking over the sex offender program. “As of today, the county is still the agency which coordinates the records with DPS,” Fitch noted.
Joe Hoover, owner/director of Legacy Montessori, said Puerner lives across the street from the school’s back property.
Hoover noted that a wall had been erected in that area. Asked if the wall was erected because of Puerner’s presence in the neighborhood or if it had been previously planned, Hoover said the answer was yes to both. “We had planned to put a wall on the property eventually,” he said.
Hoover added that school officials have kept parents informed of the situation.
“We’ve kept our parents informed,” Hoover said. “I’m not aware of any concerns at this time.”
It is estimated that 11,000 sex offenders in Arizona.
As of Sept. 19, Arizona law requires that Level 3 sex offenders may not live within 1,000 feet of a school or a day care center (certain exemptions apply).
Since Pruener lived in the residence prior to the new law being enacted, Hoover said he doesn’t know if authorities can keep Pruener from living in his current location.
Legacy Montessori, which opened its doors in 2003, serves pre-school children of 18 months up to six years. The school is located at 45290 W. Garvey Ave.