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The State

Plan to House Molester in Soledad Is Delayed After Outcry From City

August 09, 2003|Monte Morin | Times Staff Writer

A last-ditch plan to house a convicted child molester in a trailer outside Soledad state prison -- because no community would accept him -- was blocked Friday when the city of Soledad objected.

A judge postponed the release of Brian DeVries, 44, the first sexually violent offender to graduate from California's pilot treatment program, when Soledad city officials said that they didn't want the serial child molester in their Monterey County city.

"Basically, Mr. DeVries is an experiment, and we'd like the state to take its experiment somewhere else," said Soledad City Councilman Chris Bourke.

DeVries, described by authorities as one of the worst child molesters in the state, agreed to be surgically, rather than chemically, castrated to eliminate sexual urges as part of his effort to win release after seven years in a locked-down state hospital.

In court papers filed earlier this week, Soledad city officials said they had been given no warning about the Department of Mental Health's plan to release DeVries into their community. Although state officials said that the trailer was "20 miles from nowhere" and that DeVries posed little risk, city officials said they were not convinced.

A court hearing has been called for Tuesday, when officials will argue that DeVries should be housed elsewhere. The court's temporary stay has frustrated mental health officials, who say they have encountered heated opposition from residents in more than 100 possible housing locations.

"It's very clear that there's no community that will willingly take him, or take him without a fight," said Department of Mental Health spokeswoman Nora Romero.

DeVries is one of 400 child molesters and rapists 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.

While most inmates have refused treatment, DeVries has participated since 1997. He convinced a judge that he was no longer a risk to children and promised to lead a "kid-free" life.

He would be subjected to monitoring by satellite, along with drug and alcohol tests and polygraph examinations, officials said.

His attorney, Brian Matthews, said DeVries is not a risk."He's had himself surgically castrated, reducing his sexual drive down to about zero," Matthews said. "He's going to be the most heavily supervised person in the history of the state. People should not be concerned about Brian DeVries."

Officials in Soledad said they were concerned about the children of prison employees and migrant farm workers who live in area housing. They said they were also worried that if DeVries is placed on the Correctional Training Facility grounds, about five miles from the city, other graduates of the program will be sent there as well.

"The city has a real fear that Mr. DeVries is No. 1 in a long list of future releases on this property," said Soledad City Atty. Michael Rodriquez. "We don't want to be a dumping ground."

DeVries molested at least nine young boys in New Hampshire, Florida and San Jose.

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.

The judge who imposed that deadline is now on vacation, and the temporary stay was ordered by another judge.

DeVries declined to be interviewed Friday, but Matthews said his client was frustrated because he believed he was very close to freedom.

"If you can't house somebody on the grounds of a state prison, I don't know where you're going to put them," Matthews said.

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