(This story was originally published June 21, 2021.)By David Schuman

VICTORIA, Minn. (WCCO) — A convicted sex offender is moving into a Carver County neighborhood and neighbors aren’t happy about it.

Matthew Vanhecke was a substitute teacher when he was convicted of having sexual contact with two young girls he knew, ages seven and eight.

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He’s moving to Victoria to live with his parents when he’s released from prison Tuesday.

Vanhecke is a level three offender, which means his relocation requires broad public notice.

Matthew Vanhecke (credit: CBS)

At a public informational meeting Monday, hundreds of people packed in to grill officials from the Department of Corrections about Vanhecke and the move.

An online petition has gathered nearly 3,000 signatures in opposition.

“I can’t think of a house around here that doesn’t have kids, especially little kids,” said Sarah Hallmark, a neighbor.

Katie Harper, another neighbor, read an open letter at the meeting directed toward Vanhecke’s parents, pleading them to reconsider taking their son in.

“You are robbing the hundreds of kids in this neighborhood of their innocence,” Harper said.

The DOC says agents have investigated the neighborhood, but proximity to children isn’t as significant a factor in residential areas as it would be in apartment buildings with common living areas.

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Vanhecke will be under strict house arrest, GPS-monitored, and everything he does at any hour must be reviewed and approved.

It doesn’t satisfy some parents.

“I can’t imagine that the judge, if it were his own neighborhood, would put his community in peril like this,” Hallmark said.

David Weinhold, another neighbor, said Carver County has plenty of rural areas where it’d be more appropriate for Vanhecke to live.

The DOC says five sex offenders are already living in Victoria and being monitored.

An official also said any neighborhood in Minnesota that Vanhecke could move to would almost definitely have children nearby.

WCCO tried reaching Vanhecke’s parents but didn’t have any luck.

There is the possibility Vanhecke could be sent back to prison if he violates the rules that have been set for him.

“The Carver County Attorney’s Office takes these sexual offender cases extremely seriously and recognizes the fear and uncertainty that its community members have when a sexual offender is released to its community. In this case, prior to his release the County Attorney’s Office and Attorney General’s Office exercised its due diligence in investigating this matter and determined that Vanhecke did not meet the required statutory criteria for commitment as a sexually dangerous person,” Carver County Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

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To read the full statement, click here.

David Schuman