A convicted sex offender worked everywhere from festivals to a baseball park making balloon animals and hats for children, a News 4 I-Team investigation revealed.
Using the name “Mr. Twisty,” our investigation found Larry Valentine frequented town fairs and came in contact with many children, despite his probation forbidding him to work where he comes into contact with minors.
Court records show Valentine was charged in 2012 for having pictures of himself on his computer making balloon art for children, and again in 2015 when he appeared at the Main Street Festival in Franklin making balloon art, again, for children.
In both cases he was ultimately found guilty.
The last time Valentine got into trouble for making balloons creations at a Nashville Sounds baseball game, a judge ultimately dismissed the charges.
Sean McKinney was at that baseball game in April, and was so troubled by what he saw, he began to take photographs of it with his phone.
"I could hear (Valentine’s) conversation that he was having with children around him,” McKinney said.
McKinney, a criminal attorney, quickly realized why Valentine looked familiar.
McKinney had watched Valentine’s criminal trial in 2012 when he was charged with violating his probation on sex offense convictions.
"His stage name, if you will, Mr. Twisty. I thought it was creepy," McKinney said. "Caught my attention, this guy is making balloons for children and he's a convicted sex offender."
McKinney alerted police and ultimately, the Davidson County District Attorney’s office charged him for violating his probation.
But last month, Judge Sam Coleman dismiss the charge.
“People may see this story and say, you have a sex offender who is making balloons around children. He was charged with a crime. You dismissed the charge?” the I-Team asked.
“You make a decision on the law and the facts laid out before you. And in this particular case, that's what I did,” Coleman said.
Recorded audio from the hearing explained how Coleman reached his decision.
Valentine himself testified in the hearing and said he was only having fun.
“Sometimes I like to be entertaining. Gets boring between innings,” Valentine said in the hearing.
Brett Horst, Valentine’s attorney, pointed out that it was not unusual for Valentine to make balloon creations for people wherever he was.
Horst argued that although Valentine is prohibited from engaging in a profession, whether or compensated or not, within 1,000 feet of a public park, his client wasn’t paid by the Sounds and didn’t receive tips, so he wasn’t working that day.
Horst also argued that the Sounds’ stadium isn’t considered a park.
Judge Coleman agreed and dismissed the charge.
“The law is what it is. And it is not up to me to sit up here and be emotional about one side or the other. That's not my job,” Coleman said in the hearing.
But McKinney, the man who first alerted police to Valentine, was not at the hearing nor was asked to testify.
McKinney told the I-Team he would have testified that he heard Valentine make inappropriate jokes to the children for whom he was making the art.
“What caught my attention was some of the perverted jokes he was making to children about whether it was a boy dog or had a long tail,” McKinney said. “After the third genitalia joke, he really caught my attention.”
McKinney said he doesn’t’ know if his testimony would have made a difference, and wonders if he’ll see Valentine making balloon art for children again.
“He's just so brazen and willing - I don't know if he's addicted to it or what. He can't leave this kind of scenario involving children alone,” McKinney said.
Valentine is currently in the Williamson County jail serving time for his probation violation at the Main Street Festival in Franklin.
A spokesman for the Sounds said as soon as they learned Valentine was making balloon art in the game, they immediately ejected him and turned the case over to police.
A spokeswoman for the Davidson County District Attorney’s office couldn’t comment, but did say they have the option of presenting the case directly to the grand jury.
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