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Molester Freed From Hospital by Judge, Will Live Near Soledad Despite Protests

August 13, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN JOSE — Serial child molester Brian DeVries was released from Atascadero State Hospital late Tuesday, becoming the first graduate of a state-mandated sex offender treatment program, said a Department of Mental Health spokeswoman.

"We were ready to release him by Sunday, so everything had been in place. The only thing that held that up was the stay granted on Friday," said department spokeswoman Nora Romero. "There was no reason to hold him back. He was ready."

State officials decided last week to house DeVries, 44, in a trailer on the grounds of a medium-security prison near Soledad, a rural town in Monterey County. Romero said DeVries was on his way there Tuesday night. He was accompanied by his 72-year-old father, who lives in Washington state but planned to stay with his son in the trailer for at least a week.

"He's on prison grounds. It's not like a public parking lot. People can't just walk on and off at their leisure," Romero said.

A judge earlier in the day ordered the state to release DeVries by Friday despite objections from the city attorney and residents of Soledad, who said they did not want him in their town and won a brief court-ordered stay against the move.

But on Tuesday, Santa Clara County Judge Robert Baines said that the state program DeVries completed was effective and that keeping DeVries in a state hospital may be unconstitutional. Giving Soledad residents more time to prepare for DeVries' arrival was unnecessary, the judge said.

"The program is elaborate and can certainly assure every resident

After hearing about his client's release, DeVries' attorney, Brian Matthews, said Tuesday evening that he was thrilled and predicted that now that DeVries has won his freedom he "will maintain as low a profile as possible."

"He might not even come out of that trailer for a while," Matthews said.

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

To help demonstrate his intent to reform, DeVries underwent castration in August 2001 -- a surgery that he said took away his ability to become sexually aroused.

"I knew molesting was wrong," he said last month. "I wanted to stop doing it."

DeVries, who has pledged to live a "kid-free" life, was sent to Atascadero after finishing his last prison sentence. He has been in the hospital or in prison since September 1993.

After more than 100 potential landlords refused to house DeVries and facing a court-imposed deadline, the state Department of Mental Health decided to place him in a mobile home outside a medium-security prison about five miles from Soledad.

Residents objected and a judge delayed DeVries' release, originally planned for no later than last Monday. That judge scheduled a hearing before Baines, who signed the original release order and was vacationing when Soledad's city attorney asked to push back DeVries' discharge date yet again.

But Baines said the Department of Mental Health and its contractor, Liberty Healthcare, were responsible for overseeing DeVries. He also said that, according to the Megan's Law database, 58 sex offenders live in the Soledad area and none has the "massive supervision" that is planned for DeVries.

California's sexually violent predator law lets the state lock up repeat sex offenders after they serve prison sentences and force them to undergo treatment until they are no longer deemed a threat to society. About 400 such offenders are locked up at Atascadero.

DeVries is one of three men who have completed the inpatient treatment since the program began in 1996.

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