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The Region

Alert Issued About Freed Sex Offender

Riverside police pass out fliers with the photo and address of the molester, who won release after 21 years in a state mental hospital.

September 23, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Riverside police officials have started to issue warnings that a "high-risk" sex offender has moved to a residential neighborhood in the city after spending 21 years in a state mental hospital.

Convicted child molester David Claud Phillips, 54, moved into a friend's house in the Arlington area of Riverside after being released last week from Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino. Phillips already has registered with police as a sex offender, which the law requires, and he becomes the fourth sex offender considered high-risk to live in the city.

Riverside police spokesman Felix Medina said officers began distributing fliers to residents and visitors near Phillips' residence Friday. The fliers include a photo of the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Phillips, his new address and word that he was convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child and sexual battery of a minor.

"We've given the public as much information as we are legally allowed to," Medina said.

Phillips' residence is within one mile of St. Thomas Elementary School and two city parks, Arlington and Hunt, Medina said.

Neighbors expressed concern that Phillips may still be a threat to children.

"If someone's not rehabilitated, you would think they'd want to be somewhere near where the children are," said Patricia Matchett, who lives a few blocks from Phillips' new home. "I guess [convicted child molesters] have a right to live where they want, but you certainly don't want them in your own neighborhood."

Matchett said she will warn neighbors of Phillips' arrival.

Another neighbor, who requested anonymity, said she had not received word of Phillips' arrival from police. The woman said she was distressed by the news because there are four children living in her home.

Under state law, Phillips had five days to register as a convicted sex offender when he moved into the county. But Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle said Friday that he demanded that Phillips register immediately.

Phillips was living in San Diego County when the molestation occurred, but indicated when his release was imminent that he wanted to live in Riverside County.

Phillips was ordered released from Patton State Hospital on Thursday when a San Diego County Superior Court judge ruled that he had served more time than necessary by remaining in the psychiatric hospital for 21 years.

In March 1982, Phillips was convicted of sexual assault on his girlfriend's 4-year-old son in the east San Diego County town of Santee. Phillips was declared a mentally disordered sex offender and sent to Patton. The law providing for that declaration was repealed shortly after Phillips' conviction, but he agreed to continue treatment.

Phillips challenged his sentence last year, and an appeals court ruled that he was subject to resentencing because of the law's repeal and the fact that his maximum sentence would have been 13 years in state prison.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh then ordered Phillips' release from Patton, despite the objection of San Diego County prosecutor Kristen Amador. She told the court that recent psychiatric evaluations of Phillips "caused us great concern about this defendant's ability to refrain from committing further sex crimes."

Medina said the "high-risk" designation of Phillips was based both on the severity of his crime and his lengthy stay in the psychiatric hospital.

Among the 3,239 registered sex offenders living in Riverside County, Doyle said, 24 are classified as high-risk and 578 are deemed "serious." Medina said more than 700 sex offenders are registered in the city of Riverside.

"This guy [Phillips] sounds like someone we need to keep an eye on," Doyle said.

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