ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – It looks like a retirement oasis: American Cove in St. Petersburg is a resident-owned adult community.
But Mary Bickhart says her life in the park has been a living hell since her grandson Chris, 24, was arrested for having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend.
Bickhart says it is crazy and there is hysteria in the park like nothing she has ever seen. After Bickhart’s grandson was arrested, his mug shot and several signs were posted in the community saying there is a convicted felon living in the park. In addition, the board said he had to go.
According to Bickhart, the board also started terrorizing people in the park, telling them dead women were going to be found in the canal and elderly women were going to be attacked.
However, Bickhart says her grandson is the victim because he has mild mental retardation with a 60 I.Q. A psychiatrist says his common sense is abysmal, and he is not a predator. Chris says the 14-year-old forced him to have sex.
He says one time she came out of the bathroom completely nude and wanted to have sex. He says he said no, but she kept on doing things like that.
In an interview with police, the girl admits that is true, saying, “Sometimes he wasn’t a willing participant, like, he’d try to stop me. But I’d just do it anyways.”
Chris says he kept refusing until one day it happened.
Bickhart says something like that shouldn’t happen to mentally disabled people. She knows firsthand, because she was a special education teacher for 30 years.
And she says for 30 years, her life was dedicated to helping people like her grandson and she can’t believe the park would expect her to roll over on this case.
That is why she is suing to force the park to allow her grandson to stay, and asking for damages for emotional stress and defamation. The attorney for the community says he can’t comment on the case, because of pending litigation.