Victims aim to keep '70s sex offender behind bars

'Southwest Molester' has served 24 years of 830-year sentence
Thursday, March 04, 2004 By WENDY REEVES
Times Staff Writer wendyr@htimes.com
Victims of the serial sex offender known as the "Southwest Molester" plan to let the state Board of Pardons and Paroles know that even though it's been 24 years since his conviction, he is not welcome back into society.

John Paul Dejnozka, 60, was sentenced in 1980 to 830 consecutive years in prison on multiple rape, burglary and assault charges.

"Really, it seems like it was just yesterday," said Dejnozka's first victim, who asked that her name not be used.

Prisoners not serving a life-without-parole sentence are generally eligible for parole in 10 years or after serving a third of their sentence, whichever comes first. After that, they can reapply for parole consideration every three years.

The victim said residents can help by signing petitions opposing Dejnozka's release that will be sent to the parole board.

The series of attacks in mostly southwest Huntsville neighborhoods during 1978-79 involved 18 victims. All of the victims of the burglaries and sex crimes, some involving torture, were women between the ages of 16 and 30.

Homicide investigator Wayne Sharp calls Dejnozka "the most dangerous person" he's encountered during his 36-year career with the Huntsville Police Department. "He was getting progressively more violent," Sharp said Wednesday.

Sharp had investigated burglaries for years. But he was new to homicide investigating when the Southwest Molester showed up, and Dejnozka left few clues.

"I learned lessons I'll never forget," he said. "Those were lessons learned the hard way."

The biggest break came during the last case, where a mother on Miller Lane was attacked and her child tied up. After daylight, Sharp said, police saw footprints leading to the house. They followed them to a dirt road, where they were able to take measurements and make a cast of a set of tire tracks.

Eventually, Sharp said, they learned the tires were made by Bridgestone and had been driven between 2,000 and 4,000 miles.

At that time, he said Bridgestone tires were only made in Japan and came standard on a handful of imports.

"We felt like we were dealing with a fairly new car, so we went to the dealers and started driving cars through the mud," he said.

Finally, investigators determined that the car they were looking for was a Subaru. Sharp said when police went to the dealership, they learned a man had been there complaining about someone driving a blue Subaru who had been seen peeping through a neighbor's window.

Sharp said they learned that a car had been sold to Dejnozka. When a background check was done, investigators learned he was on parole in Illinois "for identical things," Sharp said.

"We picked him up on a Friday night at 15 (minutes) till 6," said Sharp. "By the time we booked him in the jail at 5 a.m. the next day, he had admitted to all of the crimes - and listed them in order."

Dejnozka named 15 houses he broke into and 18 victims, Sharp said. Of those, there was only one break-in that hadn't been reported to police. Sharp said Dejnozka told him about breaking into an apartment off Airport Road - but there was a man there with the woman he'd targeted.

"He said they started stirring a little when he broke in, but that he stayed real quiet until they went back to sleep and then he left," said Sharp. "They probably never even knew he was there."

When a psychological profile was done on Dejnozka, it was determined he was smarter than 97.8 percent of the city's population, said Sharp.

"That profile also indicated Dejnozka would not benefit from incarceration," said Sharp. "The profilers said he would be the same when he got out as he was before he went in."

The parole board will consider Dejnozka's parole request at the end of this month. The board has denied parole to Dejnozka at least four times before.

Notices are usually sent to affected parties if a preliminary review of records indicates an inmate may qualify for parole. None of the victims have received such a notice.

However, they don't want to take any chances.

A petition drive was to be held today until 5 p.m. at Smoking Leather, located on Highway 72 between Sonic and Chase Auto.

Petitions are also available for signatures at Cuts By Us, 8580 Madison Blvd., and Impressions Hair Salon, 1085-A, Suite 3, Nick Davis Road in Harvest.

Sharp will also actively oppose parole for Dejnozka. "I've always said until he dies or I do, I'll keep going down there to oppose his release," said Sharp. "I haven't forgotten any of those victims."