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Registered sex felon charged

Man who works as clown accused of molesting girls

By Rick Klein
The Dallas Morning News
- 10/16/99

Balch Springs police have arrested a registered sex offender - known to many area children as "Sparkie the Clown" - after two girls told police that he molested them.

Officers allege that Ronald Steve Chewning Jr. had inappropriate contact with two neighborhood children this summer while not in costume. The girls, ages 12 and 13, told investigators that he touched them in the front yard of his Balch Springs home, police Detective Chris Meehan said.

"When he moved in, they all became friends," the detective said. Mr. Chewning, he said, moved from Denton County, where he had been convicted of molesting a girl.

The 30-year-old suspect has admitted having contact with the girls in Balch Springs but said any inappropriate touching was accidental, Detective Meehan said. He said he was merely playing with the girls in the front yard of his home in the 11700 block of Crumpton Drive, the detective said.

"He said he was showing them wrestling moves," he said. "He said it [any inappropriate contact] was by accident. They said it made them feel uncomfortable."

One of the girls said Mr. Chewning touched her on several occasions, police said. The other girl reported being molested once, Detective Meehan said.

Mr. Chewning was arrested Wednesday on two second-degree felony counts of indecency with a child by contact. He was being held Friday in the Balch Springs Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail and could not be reached for comment.

Police have not released the alleged victims' names because of their ages.

Officers say they have no evidence that Mr. Chewning molested children while working as a clown but are trying to contact people who have hired him. Mr. Chewning ran a one-man clown business and worked as Sparkie at birthday parties and civic functions in the area, Detective Meehan said.

He performed last weekend at a park in Balch Springs, the detective said. "We want to see if he uses the clown costume to access children."

Mr. Chewning pleaded guilty to indecency with a child by contact, a second-degree felony, in 1994 for an incident involving a girl in Little Elm in Denton County.

According to court records, he touched the breast and genitals of a 12-year-old. Mr. Chewning was given eight years' probation; if he had served it successfully, no conviction would have appeared on his record. But he violated his probation and began a three-year prison sentence in December 1995, according to state records.

He left prison in February 1998 and was placed under state supervision - which is similar to probation - for the remainder of his prison sentence, records show.

Under the terms of his release, he was required to register as a sex offender and to avoid contact with children, said Stennett Posey, a spokesman for the parole division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Mr. Chewning was known to have worked as Sparkie the Clown when he registered as a sex offender, according to the state database. He registered in Denton County and re-registered in Balch Springs after moving there in August, Detective Meehan said.

Balch Springs police believe Mr. Chewning did not restart his clown business until early this year. That would have been shortly after his state supervision ended, Detective Meehan said.

No law prevents a convicted sex offender who is no longer under state supervision from having contact with children - as a clown or in any other capacity, Mr. Posey said.


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