Residents of a retirement community in East Quogue shared concerns this week after a prominent East End architect and philanthropist, who was recently indicted on six counts of possession of child pornography, was placed under house arrest in one of the complex’s 67 units.
Jay Lockett Sears, the founder of the Quogue-based “Mission of Kindness” nonprofit, was arrested by FBI agents in January on allegations that he pasted the faces of six identifiable minors on adult bodies in hundreds of pornographic images—a process called “morphing.”
Mr. Sears, who could face up to 10 years in prison, pleaded not guilty to the charges on March 11 in federal court. He was released from custody in February after family members and a friend posted his $250,000 bond. Though he was originally staying in Quogue with a friend, who has been identified only as Gerta, U.S. District Magistrate Arlene Lindsay instead allowed him to move into a unit that he rents in Eagles Walk, a senior community in East Quogue, after learning that Gerta’s 17-year-old granddaughter would be visiting for Easter and over the summer.
Eagles Walk, a 62-and-over retirement community, is located north of Montauk Highway, off Emmett Drive. John Rowe, a retired Nassau County Police Department officer who has lived in a condominium at Eagles Walk with his wife, Tricia, for nine years, said Monday that he and many other residents have grandchildren who visit. He said he was concerned that Mr. Sears’s condo overlooks the outdoor pool, where children and families spend a lot of time.
“In the winter, it’s very quiet here,” he said, pointing out that many residents head south in the off-season. “But as soon as school is out, there are more little kids than adults.”
Children under the age of 19 are permitted to stay with residents of the complex for only 30 days at a time, Mr. Rowe explained.
He added that he believes Mr. Sears, who is 73, should be moved to a home in a more remote location. “In my own experience, there is not much we can do until he is convicted,” Mr. Rowe said.
Under the terms of his release, Mr. Sears is not permitted to have any contact with anyone under the age of 18 without a parent or guardian present. Additionally, he must wear an electronic monitoring device at all times, is barred from having internet access and may leave the unit only for doctors appointments, court dates and attorney visits.
Mr. Sears, who answered the door of his condo Tuesday afternoon, said he could not comment on his case or the concerns of his new neighbors: “I’m still dealing with the courts, and I’m sorry, I just can’t comment.”
Mary Connolly, a manager for HPM Property Management, the agency that manages the complex, confirmed on Tuesday that Mr. Sears is leasing one of the units. “He signed the lease before these allegations came forward,” she said, adding that the owner of the unit, and not her agency, has control over that agreement.
Another resident of the complex, who did not want to be identified, said she was unaware that Mr. Sears had even moved in. “To say that I would welcome him here—absolutely not,” she said. “I can’t imagine that anyone would be delighted to hear that.”
Josephine McCurdy, another resident, said she too was surprised to learn the news. “It is a concern,” she said, adding that her two grandchildren, ages 4 and 5, visit her often.
Ms. Connolly said she has directed concerns and questions from residents to Richard Signorelli, Mr. Sears’s Manhattan attorney. On Tuesday, Mr. Signorelli confirmed that his client had moved into the retirement community, but pointed out that Mr. Sears has been abiding by the rules of his release and will continue to do so until his trial.
“He’s been in complete compliance with each and every condition of his pretrial release,” Mr. Signorelli said. “He has never hurt anyone in his life. He has only helped the community.
“There should be no problem whatsoever with Mr. Sears quietly residing in his retirement community, pending the resolution of his case,” he continued.