Convicted sex offender calls vandalism of his pizza parlor a hate crime
ELKHART, Ind. -- An Elkhart pizza place is picking up the pieces after an act of vandalism defaced more than just the building.
DC Pizza owner, Darren Cornell woke up early Wednesday morning to a phone call from police notifying him of the crime.
"My initial reaction was, and still is, this is a hate crime," said Cornell. "To me, this is no different than if someone threw a rock through my neighbor's window- the laundromat next door- because they're Indian."
Cornell said the vandals targeted him because of his controversial past.
"The spraypaint said "pedi"- as in short for "pedophile," explained Cornell.
Cornell was convicted in 2005 of attempted sexual deviate conduct- a class B felony.
"I made a mistake when I was younger," lamented Cornell. "I got involved with a girl three years younger than me when I was 17. Now, I'm a registered sex offender."
He served seven months in jail for the crime and has kept up with his registration. Cornell said he just wants to move on, but neighbors' are still uneasy.
"I do tell people," admited Raj Sabnis, the owner of the laundromat next door to DC Pizza. "I do tell kids who are going around here and even before I tell people they already know."
But Cornell said the rumors are killing his business and reputation.
"For people who dont know the facts, I'm the same as a serial rapist. It's the same in their minds," said Cornell.
While neighbors like Sabnis said they hope DC Pizza succeeds, they're still concerned about Cornell's character and want him to be more transparent.
"It’s not good. He has a second chance to come up in life and I want him to do that- keep a low profile and just do his business,” said Sabnis.
And Cornell just hopes to turn this unfortunate situation into an positive scenario.
“I hope that this will give people the opportunity to come meet me- to see the person I am and how a mistake I made has made me better today,” said Cornell.