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Saturday, April 27, 2002
Leyva will reside in the Roanoke area
Convicted molester returning next week

It is unclear when the public will learn Tony Leyva's address through the state police registry.

By LAURENCE HAMMACK
THE ROANOKE TIMES

   Mario "Tony" Leyva, a traveling preacher who came to Roanoke years ago to molest young boys drawn to his tent revivals, is scheduled to return next week - this time on parole.

    After staying in federal and state prisons for as long as authorities could possibly keep him, Leyva will be released Tuesday from the Brunswick Correctional Center, according to David Harker, vice chairman of the state parole board.

    Harker said Leyva "will be residing in the Roanoke area," but declined to say exactly where.

    "He will be under the strictest of supervision," Harker said.

    Leyva was convicted in 1988 of transporting minors across state lines for prostitution - charges that stemmed from providing food, money and travel in exchange for sex with young boys he met at his tent revivals. He admitted to molesting more than 100 boys in what was then called the largest case of child prostitution in U.S. history.

    The self-ordained minister received 20 years from a federal judge and another 2 1/2 years from a Roanoke County jury that convicted him of performing oral sex on two boys in motel rooms during a swing through the region.

    Both sentences were imposed before parole was abolished. As a result, Leyva will go free Tuesday after serving about half his term. But if he commits new crimes or violates the terms of his parole, he could be ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence.

    Leyva, 55, will be placed on intensive supervision for the next five years. While under the watch of state and federal probation officers, he will be required to receive treatment for sex offenders.

    He will not be allowed to hold a job that involves contact with minors, nor will he be allowed to have unsupervised contact with them under any circumstances. A home electronic monitoring system will be used to track his movements.

    Pedophiles have a high risk of recidivism, and prosecutors have said Leyva's case is especially troubling.

    He has not responded well to treatment while in prison, and has expressed a desire to return to preaching, according to Mike Echols, a California child advocate who wrote a book on the case, "Brother Tony's Boys."

    Leyva's narcissistic personality allowed him to rationalize sexual abuse as a way of providing God's love to young boys, Echols said.

    "I consider him to be unrepentant," Echols said. "The vision he has had is God is going to put him back to work preaching to young boys."

    "This is what makes him doubly dangerous. He is still deluded by him being a prophet, but a prophet he is not."

    Harker said it is standard policy for the parole board not to provide the addresses of newly released inmates. However, Leyva will be required to give his address to state police, who will post it on the state's sex offender registry at http://sex-off- ender.vsp.state.va.us/cool-ICE/.

    Leyva's lawyer, Daniel Crandall of Roanoke, did not return several calls to his office over the past week. Crandall has said in the past that he was reluctant to say where Leyva might live because of concerns about his personal safety. Some of Leyva's victims still live in the area and might try to seek revenge on their abuser, Echols has said.

    It was not clear Friday how soon the public will be able to learn of Leyva's whereabouts through the state police registry.

    "I don't want to see him lynched, but at the same time, I think the public has a right to know where he is," said Jennie Waering, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Leyva.

    Earlier this year, Leyva had a mandatory release date set for Feb. 3. But the parole board delayed his release in order for Leyva to come up with a better plan for re-entering society. Leyva had expressed an interest in going to Puerto Rico. After that fell through, probation officers were checking with homeless shelters in Roanoke to see if they could take him in if needed.

    In January, Crandall said Leyva was exploring options that included living in another state or country. But until such a plan is approved by the parole board, Leyva is required to return to the locality where he was convicted for parole supervision.

    Assuming that Leyva follows his orders, one of his first stops next week will be to the federal and state probation offices in Roanoke.


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