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Molester to Live Near Prison

After treatment, Brian DeVries will be housed on state facility grounds.

August 07, 2003|Monte Morin and Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writers

The first sexually violent offender to graduate from a special treatment program will live in a trailer on the grounds of the Soledad state prison, officials said Wednesday, after efforts to find a community willing to take him failed.

For months, state mental health officials have sought a landlord willing to lease an apartment to Brian DeVries, who after finishing the treatment program was eligible for release. But residents have opposed such a move.

DeVries, 44, described by authorities as one of the worst child molesters in the state, had himself surgically castrated to eliminate sexual urges as part of his bid to win release after seven years in a locked-down state hospital.

Under the plan announced Wednesday, DeVries will live on the edge of the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad in Monterey County. DeVries will be allowed to come and go from his trailer but will live under a curfew and be monitored by a global positioning system.

California Department of Mental Health officials said they will continue to search for an apartment or house for DeVries. The housing and monitoring arrangement is expected to cost the state $180,000 a year.

Officials have looked at 116 locations for DeVries but have yet to overcome public opposition.

"Nobody wanted to rent to us," said Nora Romero, a department spokeswoman.

DeVries is one of 400 rapists and child molesters in the state who officials determined were too dangerous to be released from custody after serving their prison sentences. They were moved to Atascadero State Hospital, which offers a treatment program.

Most inmates have refused treatment, but not DeVries.

Since 1997, he has participated in the program and recently convinced a judge that he was no longer an extreme risk to commit more molestations. He has promised to lead a "kid-free" life.

DeVries' lawyer, Brian Matthews, said his client was eagerly awaiting his freedom. Matthews compared DeVries to a child who was hoping for a bicycle on Christmas morning.

"I can tell you that Brian feels glad he is going to be released from the state hospital," Matthews said. "He's ready, willing to participate in all the treatment. He's just hoping he is going to have the chance to succeed."

As part of his conditional release, DeVries must wear an ankle monitor that will be tracked by satellite. If he enters any restricted zones such as school grounds, case managers will be alerted, Romero said.

He also will live under a curfew and must register as a sex offender with the Monterey County Sheriff's Department within five days of the move, which will record his whereabouts in the Megan's Law database.

DeVries will also be subjected to regular drug and alcohol tests and polygraph examinations to "make sure he's doing what he says he's doing," Romero said. If he violates the conditions of his release, he would be returned to the state hospital. If he is convicted of breaking the law again, he would be sentenced as a third-strike felon.

"We can't guarantee 100%, but we're doing everything we can to ensure the public safety and also follow the court order," Romero said.

DeVries will continue outpatient treatment at least twice a week in San Jose. He will be permitted to apply for a driver's license. Romero said his family was preparing to supply him with a vehicle.

DeVries molested at least nine young boys in New Hampshire, Florida and San Jose before serving his last prison term.

DeVries has insisted that his surgical castration in 2001 has taken away his ability to be sexually aroused.

A Santa Clara County judge had ordered the Department of Mental Health to find him a residence in California by Sunday or have him released to his family in Washington state. That move was opposed by Washington's governor and the Department of Mental Health, who said DeVries could not be adequately monitored there.

"I am extremely happy that California has identified a housing location for Mr. DeVries," said Washington Gov. Gary Locke in a statement released Wednesday. "I vehemently opposed the initial ruling to have Mr. DeVries released in Washington state."

Matthews said his client no longer poses a threat to anyone. That opinion, however, is not shared by many public officials.

The news of DeVries' new home was met with caution by San Jose officials, who earlier this year fought bitterly to keep the sexual predator from returning to the area where he was convicted.

"At least he's going to be on the grounds of Soledad," said San Jose Councilwoman Linda J. LeZotte.

"He's going to have a far more secure location."

In April, the City Council sent a letter to the California Department of Mental Health and the judge presiding over the case opposing the possible release.

Gov. Gray Davis has also spoken out against DeVries' release.

"The governor has never been in favor of releasing DeVries into the community," said spokesman Russ Lopez.

"The best place for him is behind bars."

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