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By Nadin Abbott

December 31, 2013 (San Diego)—On December 23rd, Judge Howard Shore delayed his final decision on the placement of Mikel Wayne Marshall, a convicted sexual predator, in Jacumba Hot Springs on a conditional release. Shore said that he wants to personally inspect the property recommended by state officials before making his final decision after hearing compelling testimony from residents, including a survivor of sexual abuse who resides in Jacumba Hot Springs.

Jacumba Hot Springs is about 70 miles from San Diego, deep in the East County. Residents such as Danielle Cook, who spoke to ECM before hearing, have very specific fears about this. Cook said that “pedophilia is not a curable disease.” Offenders “that commit this act, go on to commit more,” she told ECM.

Cook added, “There are young boys in our community and we do not want them molested.” She noted that the home where the State wants to house Marshall overlooks a property where children frequently play, as well as a bus stop. This concerns were echoed later on during the hearing.

Marshall spent 14 years in prison for molesting  four boys ages 4 to 8 between 1992 and 1994. In each case he was known to the families of the children he assaulted. Rather than being released at the end of his prison term Mr. Marshall was committed as a Sexually Violent Predator in 2008. Since that time he has participated in the in-patient sex offender treatment program at Coalinga State Hospital. On August 5, the court found that  Marshall could be safely released into the community for continued treatment and supervision. The Department of State Hospitals proposed placement at 42920 Desert Rose Ranch Rd. in Jacumba Hot Springs.

Judge Shore opened the hearing by telling people that his obligation is to the law. He reminded those in the audience that while in a typical legal proceeding the public is encouraged to attend, “in this type of hearing the law actually anticipates participation of the public.”

Judge Shore then went on to explain the requirements of the law, including that housing needs to be at a certain distance from schools, or other places where children may regularly frequent. These nclude parks, schools and libraries. These are part of Megan’s Law. http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/

Shore also explained that in this case, the state was looking at a conditional release to be supervised by Liberty Healthcare. Allan Spillman of Liberty Healthcare was in the courtroom to address concerns of the residents.

The Judge had in his hands the written testimony sent by residents to the court and he invited members of the community who drove 70 miles to address the Court. He instructed all, before testimony was to be given, that “It is not helpful to hear about what other offenders have done.”

He also explained that this case was very unusual since both the people’s doctor and the defense agreed on every facet of where Marshall was regarding treatment. In fact, the people’s doctor was willing to recommend conditional release soon.

This release implies close daily supervision, using GPS monitors and staffers from Liberty Healthcare. Once the ground rules were done with, the public was invited to speak. First to testify was Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who first thanked the Court for the opportunity to address it. Then she told the Court, “I oppose this placement in Jacumba Hot Springs.” She added, “You have to follow the law, but I also have a responsibility to my Constituents.” She added that she opposes this placement since “there are no services in this area, little to none, and to continue to place these sexually violent predators in our back country is not only short sighted, it’s foolish.”

Jacob went on to suggest to the Court that Marshall be housed in a trailer at Donovan State Prison, and she was not the only one. Others would echo her words, and there was a back and forth between the Judge and Supervisor Jacob as to whether she has contacted the State to see if this was acceptable. Jacob pointed out that at least two others were placed in a trailer. Indeed there is precedent, for example Mathew Hedge was housed at Donovan starting in 2009. http://www.10news.com/news/10news-examines-sex-predator-treatment-program

The question is whether this meets the requirement of community reintegration, which is part of the treatment program.

After Jacob came Jacumba residents. The most gut-wrenching testimony came from Lorrie Ostrander, who lives east of where the Court intends to put Marshall.

Ostrander told the Court, “The safety of our children are once again being put into harms way by another SVP (sexually violent predator) placed within our community.” She added that “he will have a front row view to where families reside and our youth wait for the school bus.”

She went on to say, “one does not heal from this type of mentality and they know how to play the system. And when the trust is there, they repeat their acts on a youth. I know this because I am a survivor of such sexual acts at the age of two until I was fourteen. Over the years there has not been one day that I am not reminded of the events that took place in my youth.”

She continued by telling the court that she does not want any child of any age to be preyed upon. “But if you continue to release back into society these types of individuals, no child will be safe,” she added.

She asked the Court, “Why our community? Is it because we are spread out? That is where you are misled.” Lorrie pointed out that the community is very closely knit. She also asked why not place this man “within either of your communities?”

In closing, she read a piece to the court: “When one turns their mind around they can live a better live. Pure mind, pure heart, and if this is the case of releasing this offender then I can only hope with my heart knowing that each day I am still in prison because I have the horrible memories of what took place when I was a young child.” She finished her testimony, her voice cracking with emotion.

There was another theme emphasized by other neighbors, as well as Jacob, and this was response time. Lorrie Ostrander’s husband, Mark, is a retired Cal Fire battalion chief and he emphasized to the court that response times can take up to an hour.

Chris Noland pointed out, as well as a few others, the closeness to the school bus stop. He added that safety was gone.

After the neighbors were done, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Spieler aknowleged that the community would be affected, but that this was a balance with requirements of the law.

One of the concerns voiced by residents was the poor reception in the back country and how this would affect the GPS monitor that the Court will require Marshall to wear. According to Alan Spillman of Liberty Healthcare, that will not be an issue.

The second concern was Marshall travelling to the store, or anywhere else. Spillman assured the community members and the court that Marshall will be accompanied anywhere he goes and that he needs to submit a travel plan every week. This includes trips for recreation, food runs, as well as the court ordered treatment. He also said that while there have been violations of other parolees placed in the backcountry, they have not reoffended; those were technical violations of their conditions of parole, for example talking with somebody to whom they were not authorized to speak. Spillman also said that the company has recommended recommitting at times, and that there has not been any new cases of molestation from any of their clients.

The Judge issued a continuance to January 13 at 9 a.m. since he wants to physically drive to Jacumba to check the property himself, after school classes restart.

So for the moment the community has some hope.

After the hearing ECM talked with Jacob. She was adamant that sexual predators should remain committed for the rest of their lives, since the recidivism rae is too high. ECM asked about changing the laws, and she said that they will keep trying. As Judge Shore said in his opening remarks, that is the job of the state Legislature.

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