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Mutilation Case Shows Limits of Criminal and Mental Health Systems

May 24, 1989

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) _ The state needs tougher laws to keep repeat offenders in custody, said Gov. Booth Gardner after a man with a long history of assaults on children was accused of raping and sexually mutilating a 7-year-old boy.

The arrest of Earl Kenneth Shriner, 39, has frustrated police, prosecutors, mental health professionals and relatives who had tried to keep him in mental hospitals or jails.

Shriner was charged with attempted murder, rape and assault after the boy was found in a wooded area, naked and bloody with his penis cut off.

The boy was in satisfactory condition Tuesday at Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center.

Shriner’s 38-year-old brother, John, said: ″He’s my brother and I love him. But God, he’s driven the whole family nuts for 20 years.″

If guilty, ″he should be put somewhere where he’s safe and where people are safe from him,″ said his mother, Delores.

″He’s crying out for help,″ she said. ″He says he didn’t do this, but he has two personalities - a loving son and then the man who may have done this.″

Gardner on Tuesday called for a change in the law so individuals with a known risk for committing such crimes ″could be subject to involuntary treatment and civil commitment under some code or statute.″

State Sen. Phil Talmadge said Tuesday he would ask corrections and mental health officials why Shriner was free.

″I want to see their explanation,″ Talmadge said. ″This guy by all accounts had no business being out on the street.″

Shriner pleaded innocent Monday in Superior Court, two days after the attack. Bail was set at $1 million and trial for July 17.

Reports on Shriner through 1977 show authorities considered him mentally retarded. In 1987, psychologists and psychiatrists at Western State Hospital concluded he had a learning disability and five disorders, including pedophilia and an anti-social personality.

His troubles with the law began in 1965, when he was declared a ″defective delinquent″ after choking a 7-year-old girl. The term, now abandoned, referred to juveniles prone to violence because of mental or emotional problems.

In November 1966, he was sent a school for the developmentally disabled after he led authorities to the body of a 15-year-old classmate. But he was considered too dangerous for the school and was committed to Western State psychiatric hospital from 1968 to 1973.

In 1976, he was acquitted in two assault cases, but the next year he pleaded guilty to assaulting two 16-year-old female hitchhikers. The judge ordered him committed to the sexual psychopath program at Eastern State Hospital, but he was rejected there and spent his entire 10-year sentence at the Washington Corrections Center.

Subsequent efforts to return him to Western State were rejected by a judge, although late in his prison term Shriner was found with lists of items he would need to maim or kill youngsters, officials said.

″We did everything legally possible to keep him in custody,″ said Kathryn S. Bail, chairwoman of the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board.

In November 1987, Shriner pleaded guilty to assault in the stabbing of a 16-year-old boy and served 66 days of a 90-day sentence.

A subsequent evaluation at Western State found Shriner dangerous, especially to youngsters, but there was no sexual aspect to the case, said Frank Mendizabal of the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Last October, Shriner was sentenced to 67 days in jail after pleading guilty to attempted unlawful imprisonment in an attack on a 10-year-old boy who was tied to a post and beaten.

″I don’t think there was anything more we could have done to keep him out of reach any longer than we did,″ Prosecutor Jon Ladenburg said.

NY-05-24-89 0413EDT

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