Walterboro community continues to push back against proposed criminal rehab center

More than 1,500 signatures and comments from Walterboro residents have some Colleton County councilmembers concerned.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 10:46 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2023 at 4:19 AM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - Colleton County councilmembers heard concerns from residents Tuesday night after one Lowcountry organization said they are looking to bring a rehabilitation center for prior sex offenders to Walterboro.

More than 1,500 signatures and comments from Walterboro residents have some Colleton County councilmembers concerned.

Some residents, like JoAnn Goodhope, say they don’t want sex offenders in their neighborhood.

“I would like to submit to you 1,500 signatures and they’re coming in 50 every hour,” Goodhope said.

Folks who live on Barracada Road say they want to stop SHIELD Ministries, ran by registered sex offender David Truluck, from coming to their area. They say it is dangerous for their kids.

Jamie Jordan, chairman of the board of directors for SHIELD Ministries, says regardless, there are already 51 sex offenders that live within three miles of Barracada Road. He says he would rather have them in a vetted program.

“We want to be a good citizen for the community, and we feel like we can be an asset to the community,” Jordan said.

Ashley Pennington, former public defender of both Charleston and Berkeley County and SHIELD Ministries volunteer, says offenders are drug tested, given a curfew and have counseling from licensed professionals.

Sarah Leitner, a licensed professional counselor that used to do service hours at SHIELD Ministries, says otherwise.

“He has no licensed professional counselors, social workers, psychologists, anybody in the health professionals on staff,” Leitner said.

Community members say they don’t want SHIELD Ministries to be able to establish there, but without a permit application from the group, that could not be done. Regardless, the council says they still have concerns with the treatment efficacy and clinical competence of SHIELD Ministries.

“I think we all have great concern and when the time comes,” Steve Murdaugh, chairman of Colleton County Council, said. “I think council has heard the message.”

Kevin Lyles, who lives in the community, says he feels hopeful moving forward.

“We gave them the information to say, ‘Hey, chances are it’s going to happen,’” Lyles said. “We’re asking you to stop it before it does. Not after the fact.’”

Meagan Bishop, who is also against SHIELD Ministries, agrees.

“Our fight doesn’t end here,” Bishop said. “This is just the beginning.”

David Truluck with SHIELD Ministries has other locations across the Lowcountry, but he hasn’t responded to a request for comment.