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Larry Don McQuay is trying to remember how many children he's molested in his 31 years. He doesn't have a precise count, but as best he can estimate, it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 240.
It's enough to disgust even him.
Or so he says.
McQuay is perspiring, having just returned from laboring in the corn fields of the Eastham Unit state prison outside of the small East Texas town of Lovelady, where he's in the midst of an eight-year stretch for injury to a child. He'll be up for parole next year, but before he's turned loose, he'd like to ask a favor of you. He wants you -- that is, the state of Texas -- to remove his testicles.
A pudgy man with a well-tattooed right forearm and a dull face, McQuay is one of several imprisoned sex offenders in Texas who have expressed interest in being castrated, but thus far he's the only one who's actually gone to the trouble of filing a lawsuit to force the state to transform him into a eunuch.
Castration, McQuay says, will stop his body from producing the male hormone testosterone -- linked to aggressive and sexual behavior -- and prevent him from damaging other children when he's a free man. Not surprisingly, there are a number of people who have offered to help him achieve his goal -- free of charge, with a rusty blade and no anesthesia. He's also gotten legitimate support from a Houston-based victims' rights group that is raising money to foot the bill for McQuay's castration -- and possibly those of some of his fellow inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
There are other people, though, who believe that McQuay's problems are located in his head, not below his waist, and think that the best way to ensure he keeps his hands to himself is to see that he's locked away for a long, long time. And TDCJ is standing by its policy that prohibits prisoners from undergoing elective surgery.
Talk long enough to Larry McQuay and you come away thinking that maybe castration wouldn't be a bad idea, simply because it's hard to find any redeeming qualities in the man or his life, and perhaps the surgery would leave him with some lingering pain or regret. But you also come away with plenty of questions that can't really be answered: Did he actually molest the number of children he says he has, and would he really follow through on his wish to have his load lightened? Or is he just seeking the attention that he's been denied most of his life? And if he were castrated, would it prevent him from doing what he says he's otherwise bound to do again?
"I don't like myself and what I've done," says McQuay, wiping the sweat from his fleshy face. "I have difficulty separating the two. Sometimes I consider myself the crime. I am a child molester. A monster. Other times I feel it's not me, and that I can be normal, but I need help."
That Larry Don McQuay needs help is something no one can argue. Whatever else he says about himself, however, is best not taken at face value. Subterfuge, of one kind or another, has always been his talent.
McQuay claims to have had a prolific career as a molester, but it was not until 1989 in San Antonio that he landed on the wrong side of the law. He was working as a school bus driver then, a job that gave him access to hundreds of potential new victims every weekday. His encounters with children, he says, ranged from a casual touch in a private place as a child boarded the bus to outright propositions.
On occasion, McQuay says he also would watch classes for teachers who needed a break. It was while tending one class that McQuay made the acquaintance of a six-year-old boy who, as McQuay noticed, had a hole in his pants that revealed the child wasn't wearing any underwear.
McQuay befriended the boy, purchased him several pairs of underwear and gave them to the boy's mother, and from that rather odd beginning he developed a sexual relationship with the woman -- in order, he says, to be close to her child.
"I was always looking," recalls McQuay, who can sound as if he's bragging even as he's attempting to come off as contrite.
But just a few months after, McQuay was forced to resign his bus-driving job when he was reported to school authorities for writing letters to a 13-year-old boy, trying to persuade the boy to have sex with him. McQuay even offered to measure the size of the boy's penis. But his real problems didn't start until word of the letters spread to the woman McQuay had taken up with. After questioning her son, she learned that McQuay had forced the boy to have oral sex with him numerous times.
The woman called the police, and McQuay was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault, injury to a child and exposure. Since it was his first offense, there was nothing in McQuay's record to suggest that he was a serial pedophile. So, in order to expedite justice, prosecutors offered him a deal. Instead of being tried on the aggravated sexual assault charge -- which carries a possible life sentence -- McQuay was allowed to plead guilty to the injury-to-a-child charge, punishable by two to 20 years in prison. In exchange for his plea, McQuay received an eight-year prison sentence.