Child killer Stephen Cheatham working next to a pre-school
THIRTEEN years after he murdered his wife and daughter,
Stephen Darcy Cheatham
was let out of prison to work next door to a pre-school.
Families who use Rhodes Park and pre-school were oblivious to the identity of the child killer, dressed in green shorts and T-shirt as he raked leaves.
The 46-year-old was jailed for 24 years for murdering wife Sandra and daughter Briahna, 3, and attempting to murder a 12-week-old baby.
Last month Cheatham was deemed not ready for unsupervised release and was instead sent to Kokoda Memorial Track, where Corrective Services has run a supervised program for more than a decade.
On the same week as Sandra's family commemorated the anniversary of the murders, Cheatham spent two days wandering along the 800m track and to sheds near the hospital and pre-school.
Cheatham and four other prisoners stopped for food and drink breaks under the supervision of a sole Corrective Services officer.
While the other prisoners used the male toilets, Cheatham looked around before twice using the female toilets.
Cheatham has a non-parole period of 16 years. His first parole hearing is on March 5 next year.
"I can't ever forgive him for what happened. None of our family can," Sandra's father Ian Cook said yesterday.
On March 5, 1998, Cheatham - a hypochondriac from a young age - had convinced himself that he had contracted AIDS and believed he had infected his family.
After hugging and kissing his sleeping wife, Cheatham stabbed her in the back and chest with a 15cm boning knife. He also stabbed Briahna, and a baby who survived.
Subsequent blood tests showed that none of them were HIV positive.
Until The Daily Telegraph informed Corrective Services yesterday they did not realise Cheatham was working next to a pre-school. A Corrective Services spokeswoman last night confirmed they would move Cheatham.
"He is currently classified as a minimum security prisoner and has worked under close supervision for more than 12 months," she said.
Rhodes pre-school director Vera Jenkins contacted Corrective Services last night to express her concern: "I care a lot about the children we have here."
Kokoda Memorial Track chairman Rusty Priest said prisoners in the program had to be supervised and not breach the Child Protection Act."This is the first time I've known that this has happened and I don't want to see it happen again," he said.
There are 123 prisoners released into the public every week on work programs.
Residents and business owners are not commonly informed about their presence.
The Daily Telegraph (9-3-2011)