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California Finds Home for Sex Predator

August 6, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A convicted child molester who became the first graduate of a California program to detain sexually violent predators after their prison terms said he’s being allowed to move to a remote home.

Brian DeVries, 44, who had himself surgically castrated and has promised to live a ``kid-free″ life, says he’s been told he’ll be released sometime this week.

``It’s exceptionally rural,″ DeVries said by telephone Tuesday from Atascadero State Hospital, where he’s been in custody since leaving prison in 1997. ``It’s 20 miles from anybody or anything.″

Gov. Gray Davis’ office confirmed the state has found a place for DeVries, but almost every aspect of the release has been shrouded in secrecy as state officials try to avoid the community outrage that often arises when a sex offender moves into a neighborhood.

An earlier effort by the Department of Mental Health to house DeVries in Santa Clara County fell apart after a newspaper reported the address and neighbors mobilized against the plan. Department spokeswoman Nora Romero said she couldn’t answer questions about the latest plan ``on pain of death.″

A Santa Clara County judge gave state officials an ultimatum last Friday: find DeVries suitable housing in California or release him to his father’s custody in Washington state _ an alternative that drew objections from both states’ governors.

If he were sent out of state, he would not fall under California’s planned restrictions. It wants DeVries to live in state-funded housing and submit to an outpatient treatment regime that includes monitoring by satellite, extensive therapy and random searches of his home.

Washington officials expressed relief at this week’s development. ``We’re obviously quite pleased,″ said Gary Larson, spokesman for Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

DeVries says he doesn’t care where he goes. ``If it’s desert, I’ll raise tortoises. If it’s farmland, I’ll start a victory garden. And if it’s in the pines, I’ll feed the deer,″ he said.

DeVries said he expects to be out by Friday, but his lawyer wasn’t as confident.

``I’m not getting excited until it’s happened,″ public defender Brian Matthews said. ``He’s like a kid at Christmas who’s told he might be getting a bike.″

If he is released, DeVries will become the first California sex predator freed after completing the treatment program, which tries to rehabilitate the state’s most dangerous repeat sex offenders. About 400 rapists and child molesters are being held indefinitely under a law that took effect in 1996. Most are refusing treatment and have little chance of being released.

DeVries molested at least nine young boys in New Hampshire, Florida and San Jose before serving his last term in prison. To help demonstrate his intent to reform, DeVries was castrated in August 2001 and said he can no longer get sexually aroused.

DeVries says he wants to set an example, showing the other sex predators that the state treatment program can work.

``They just don’t believe there’s any light at the end of the tunnel. They have no examples,″ he said. ``This program needs to work and work fairly, or it needs to be eliminated.″

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