Rantz: State releasing sex predators to unsecured housing by school bus stop

Jan 26, 2023, 5:34 AM | Updated: 8:38 am

sex predators...

57-year-old Brian Horton has a lengthy criminal history, including pleading guilty to one count of first-degree child molestation from a March 21, 1997 incident, leading to a sentence of 89 months confinement and 36 months community supervision. Horton will be a future resident at a home near a school bus stop in Tenino as part of an outpatient treatment program. (AP Photo/File)

(AP Photo/File)

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) tried to quietly release sexually violent predators, including a child molester, into an unsecured, rural residential neighborhood in Tenino. It’s less than half a mile from a school bus stop and will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands per year — per sex offender — to house. The Washington Department of Corrections noted its security concerns, but they appear to have gone unaddressed.

Supreme Living, LLC is a privately-run supportive housing provider for what it calls “behaviorally challenged individuals.” They purchased a location in Tenino, described by the sheriff as a five-bedroom farmhouse, which DSHS selected to house sex predators from the Special Commitment Center (SCC) at McNeil Island. Sex predators at SCC are undergoing treatment after having served their prison sentences. It is a fully secured environment.

The home will house up to five sex predators, raking in $38,000 a month per resident until it’s fully occupied. Then, the state says, the average cost becomes $20,000 a month. The Tenino location is currently slated to house one level 3 sex offender, the designation given to an offender with a high recidivism rate. It will open on February 1.

The arrangement comes from a Washington Democrats’ strategy to depopulate prisons and McNeil Island with a Less Restrictive Alternative (LRA), an outpatient treatment program in a community setting. In 2021, Democrats passed legislation to more easily distribute conditionally-released sexually violent predators across the state, and to encourage predators to pursue LRAs. At the time, the prime sponsor, State Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), said it’s in part about “people who are potentially dangerous, but not necessarily dangerous, back into communities where they can live safely and with their constitutional liberties protected.”

This is also part of a more significant, Democrat-led effort to destigmatize criminals. The state refers to McNeil Island sex predators as “residents.”

“Residents who participate in treatment have a greater likelihood of being granted access by the court to discharge from the Total Confinement Facility to a Less Restricted Alternative,” a DSHS spokesperson explains to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, denying there is a plan to depopulate.

In 2022, DSHS released 22 sex predators to LRAs, and two in 2023. Eleven sex predators were placed in Pierce County, eight in King County, four in Spokane County, and one in Snohomish County.

Mayor safety concerns

The Supreme Living house is half a mile away from a school bus stop and directly facing a recreational activity area. It’s one of several concerns raised by the Department of Corrections (DOC), which is supposed to handle enforcement should a sex offender leave the location.

“There were some security concerns,” a DOC spokesperson told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “There is a neighboring property directly in front of the residence that appeared to host lakefront activities and active water sports within line of sight of several areas that residents would be able to access. There is also a school bus stop within half a mile. All of these concerns were expressed to the property owner.”

The court overseeing the LRA ultimately decides if a property is sufficient to house sex predators.

“The property owner is only required to address any concerns or changes recommended to the location if the court compels them to do so. DOC cannot require the property owner to address noted concerns,” the spokesperson said, though noted the sex offenders will have ankle bracelets.

Supreme Living co-owner and CEO Angela Rinaldo, co-owner Mike Baird, and director of Administrative Services Rachel Hetrick did not respond to multiple requests for comment. It’s unclear if they plan to voluntarily make any changes to their property.

The housing is also without a security fence, surveillance cameras, or armed security, according to Thurston County’s newly elected sheriff, Derek Sanders. He also says DSHS did not explain to him the facility was being used to house sex offenders. He notes all he received was a sex offender registration bulletin, then found out about the residential site when concerned residents spoke up.

Sanders went to an open house event put on by Supreme Living to address concerns but left unimpressed.

“I went to this town hall meeting with an open mind, right? Like, what’s really going on here?” Sanders exclusively told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “How are we going to address this? And left, ‘Wow, what a poor presentation.’ There weren’t many answers. And my perspective obviously comes from a law enforcement side of things. When one of the sex offenders leave, and one of them eventually will, because this is permanent housing … we’ve taken sex offenders who are never leaving the house, are not allowed to leave ever, and expecting that they won’t ever act on impulse and just walk out the front door?”

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Keeping this quiet

DSHS picked this location under the “fair share principles” outlined in state law, which says each county has “adequate options for conditional release housing placements,” according to a spokesperson. But they did the bare minimum in alerting the public to the move, even though they made the LRA decision, giving off the appearance that this was purposefully done quietly.

Senate Minority Leader John Braun criticized DSHS’s handling of the LRA, calling it a “secretive, non-transparent way where nobody even knew was happening until it’s nearly a done deal.”

“But to do it without telling the folks who are going to be your neighbors, are going to have to live beside this facility and worry about their children, their family’s safety is just wrong, and another example of the almost contempt that the Inslee administration has for citizens around the state of Washington,” Braun told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

At a community-organized meeting, Tenino resident Jennifer Wienes explained that she and her husband sold the property to Supreme Living. She told FOX 13 that, “[They] told us that they were going to be fostering children… Later found out that their intent was not to do that.”

Community members say they weren’t informed of this housing decision until plans had already been made. But DSHS says it communicated its plans to the Thurston County Commissioners in August 2022 and that it was up to local leaders to publicize the plan. But they have a different recollection of the events.

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County commissioner says they were kept in the dark

Commissioner Carolina Mejia says the county “was notified by community members of the plan” around May 2022, but did not know the scope.

“In August 2022, we asked our Criminal Justice Regional Program Manager to research information about the program the state was planning to implement,” Mejia told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH via statement. “She provided the commissioners with an informational briefing on the LRA process so they could better understand the individuals who may be residing in the home. The commissioners had many concerns about this type of facility but needed to wait to get more information from Community Planning and Economic Development since no permit application had been filed.”

Mejia says they then became aware of the plan but “was not part of the planning process, nor was the county consulted.”

“At no point in the past and up to today have the County Commissioners received formal correspondence from any state agencies regarding this program or proposal,” she explained. “It has been the counties’ initiative to research the details of this proposal. By the time the county was informed of the project, the location had already been selected. We were also under the assumption that this location would require a permit, and it wasn’t until December 2022 that the commissioners were told otherwise. At no point has the Thurston County Board of County Commissioners received formal correspondence from DSHS, DOH, or DOC regarding this project.”

When Sen. Rolfes pitched her bill to clean up the process around LRA placement, she said it would prevent incidents where community members and local lawmakers were left in the dark.

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Who is the level-3 sex predator?

DSHS refused to identify the level-3 sex predator slated to enter the Tenino location, insisting I go through a public disclosure process that can take months. But the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office was able to provide the DOC case document they received.

The document names 57-year-old Brian Horton as the future resident. He has a lengthy criminal history, including pleading guilty to one count of first-degree child molestation from a March 21, 1997 incident, leading to a sentence of 89 months confinement and 36 months community supervision. The case notes report the then-31-year-old “began having sexual contact with an unknown 6-year-old female and an unknown 5-year-old male while he was babysitting them.” The document said Horton “reported that both victims cried and tried to get away from him, but he held them forcefully.”

While serving his sentence, he was disciplined for indecent exposure and sexual harassment. The incident occurred in 2001 at an inmate baseball game. The document says he was on the pitcher’s mound when he removed his genitalia from his pants and started “shaking” it in front of others inmates and DOC staff.

Horton received an annual review by a psychologist, whose report was released in November 2022. It diagnoses him as having “pedophilic disorder, nonexclusive type, sexually attracted to both,” “unspecified paraphilic disorder,” and a moderate intellectual disability.

In 1994, he was found guilty of assault in the fourth degree, but received a suspended one-year sentence. In 1991, he was “counseled, fined, and given probation” for public indecency. In 1987, he was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended with six months, for indecent liberties.

There is a lengthy section of the document that is fully redacted. It’s titled “Additional Sexual Behavior.” A 1978 juvenile crime is also redacted, but it’s listed as an assault.

Horton has a history of infractions while in treatment

The doctor who diagnosed Horton says he has a “psychologically significant” risk for having “deviant sexual interest.” So why is he being released to a less restrictive site near a school bus stop and across from a space children may use for water sports?

Dr. Elizabeth Bain wrote in the report that Horton was ready for release to an LRA because, over the course of three reviews, he “recognized that his behavior escalated after he experienced frustration, embarrassment, jealousy, or anger.” She noted he regularly meets with his assigned clinician and participates in his assigned treatment groups.

“It will be important for LRA staff to be familiar with what can cause Mr. Horton to feel frustration, embarrassment, jealousy, and anger,” Dr. Bain wrote, according to the case file. “Further, it will be important for Mr. Horton to have access to coping skills that are effective for him as well as a range of replacement behaviors. When he is experiencing a negative emotion, Mr. Horton may not be able to independently recognize the need to utilize coping skills and staff should be ready to assist him by providing him options.”

Dr. Bain warned that Horton “cannot give consent to sexual activity with others and, if observed engaging in sexual activity, a report to adult protective services must be made.” She argued that he is expected to continue his positive trajectory at Supreme Living.

Why is Horton being released?

In determining whether or not to put a sex predator in an LRA, a group of eight psychologists reviews cases to see if they still meet the criteria to qualify as a “sexually violent predator,” if the new housing is in the sex predator’s best interest and if placement can ensure community safety. But psychologists are not public safety experts, nor do they engage in any community outreach.

According to Horton’s case file, he “has a history of extensive violations” of rules at McNeil Island, including threatening behavior, physical aggression, and failure to obey an urgent directive in 2022. The document also notes that “Horton has had sexual contact with other males during his incarceration.”

Dr. Bain warns that Horton is “more likely than not to commit a crime of predatory sexual violence if unconditionally released to the community.” The DOC says they have staff to respond to security issues 24/7, but community members and the sheriff worry that, given the location, it would be easy for any predator to escape and commit a crime before law enforcement could respond.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: State releasing sex predators to unsecured housing by school bus stop