COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Colleton County residents are urging County Council to stop a proposed halfway house meant to rehabilitate convicted sex offenders.
Shield Ministries hopes to open a facility at a former church building near Barracada Road and Highway 17A in Walterboro.
The organization, founded by convicted sex offender David Truluck, claims to “help men transition from the devastation of their past into a thriving future.”
About 50 men could be housed at the property at any given time as the first phase of their three-phase program to help the men improve their lives.
Neighbors in the area vehemently oppose the opening, raising concern about the legitimacy of the practice, Truluck himself, and how the halfway house would impact the area’s safety.
“All of us in here are parents, grandparents, something,” one resident said. “We’re raising our children up in this. We agree that rehabilitation is necessary in every aspect of life, I just don’t know about introducing pedophiles into our community,” he said. He went on to note that “those same pedophiles are being led by the ones who themselves have committed the same crime. It’s kinda like the blind leading the blind.”
Megan Bishop is the step-daughter and the victim of Truluck. She gave an emotional speech, detailing how he began abusing her when she was just 11 years old. Bishop said that Truluck was in no position to reform others, as he clearly, in her opinion, had no remorse for his own actions.
“They are literally trying to raise money and are accepting donations off a twisted version of the trauma that he caused. They claim to be nonprofit but have literally turned pedophilia into a business. I am speaking from personal experience and as a witness of their character. If Melody [Truluck] did not care about protecting her own children, then I can assure you she definitely does not care about protecting your children.”
News 2 previously asked Truluck if he could guarantee that the men at the halfway house would not pose a threat to the community. He said that he doesn’t think he “could give that type of guarantee,” but cited the program’s “zero percent recidivism” rate.
A petition to prevent Shield Ministries from opening the halfway house has garnered over 1,500 signatures. JoAnne Goodman, who started the petition, presented it to members at the council meeting.
“This is your community and their parents speaking out loud to you, do not allow this in your community,” she cautioned council members. “If you do, you will not be re-elected.”
Council took no action on the topic at Tuesday night’s meeting.
While Shield Ministries has identified the Barracada Road property as their desired location, no permits have been filed with the county as of this writing.