OLYMPIA, WASH. - Residents say they are being blindsided by the locations and sudden pop-up of facilities that will house the highest level of sex offenders. Now state lawmakers are pushing new bills to clear up the situation.
Residents in Tenino have been pushing against a Less Restrictive Alternative (LRA) facility since Jan.11.
On Friday, several gathered outside a facility in Olympia lining the street with signs saying "Keep Tenino Safe", "Our community is not your guinea pig" and "Community over profit".
The facility off Martin Way is owned by Supreme Living. It's CEO, Angela Rinaldo, proposed the facility would be located next to a park, a lake and in the middle of a neighborhood.
Kendahl Tuttle is a concerned resident who has been looking into the facilities since the first town hall meeting, which was 32 days ago.
"We are just out here to prove the point that she can not keep people in," Tuttle said. "She is not safe, she is not. She shouldn't be trusted with this level of sex offender."
Not only is she fighting the transfer of five sex offenders from McNeil Island to Tenino, she's now questioning the company.
Kerri Jeter, a mother and Tenino resident, says she's uncovered a discrepancy in the current facility.
"I noticed that there was a name missing from their list; they have a sex offender who’s absconded," Jeter said.
According to law enforcement, a sex offender who has been absconded is someone who did not notify authorities of a change of address.
The alleged non-compliant sex offender is William Morris III, a level two sex offender who has a moderate risk of re-offending.
"If you can't keep accountability for the lower sex-offenders, how can we trust you and your organization to keep accountability for the worst of the worst? I just think it's a recipe for disaster," Jeter said.
Regarding Morris’ non-compliance, FOX 13 reached out to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO), the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Supreme Living.
The TCSO and the DSHS have not responded. The only information DOC can confirm is that a warrant for Morris' ‘Failure to Appear’ was issued on Dec. 7, 2021.
Supreme Living sent FOX 13 a statement on Saturday:
Supreme Living has been alerted to plans for a rally in front of its facilities on Martin Way in Olympia late in the afternoon of February 10th.
Supreme Living operates an Enhanced Services Facility licensed by the Department of Social and Health Services ("DSHS") and a Residential Treatment Facility licensed by the Washington State Department of Health ("DOH"). Each facility has the capacity for 15 residents. The facilities are staffed on a 24/7 basis with nurses, certified nurse’s assistants, and mental health professionals who provide the residents a range of daily living services, access to mental health, medical and employment related services to assist residents in successfully re-integrating into the community.
The residents of our facilities generally transfer from behavioral health hospitals. Some of them are veterans. None of the residents of either facility came from the SCC unit at McNeil Island.
Supreme Living’s Olympia facilities have had a positive working relationship with local service providers, neighbors and law enforcement, including the Thurston County Sheriff’s office. They recognize that the mental health and rehabilitative services that Supreme Living provides are meeting underserved needs in this community.
As a provider of services that are needed in this community, Supreme Living is saddened by the conduct that has been directed against us. Over the past few weeks, Supreme Living’s offices and Tenino property have been subject to frequent trespasses, vandalism and property damage. Supreme Living’s owners and staff have been harassed and received death threats. We recognize that facility siting can lead to emotional discussions. We understand the need for conversations but as the Sheriff has publicly stated, threats and violence cross the line. The safety of our staff, residents and the community at large remain Supreme Living’s highest priority.
It is unclear if he has fled or is wanted by law enforcement. Additionally, it's unclear who is responsible for his whereabouts.
"It's really eye-opening honestly, and scary to think that this could be happening down the street from my house," Tuttle said.
According to the Washington Sex Offender Registry, there are the eight men registered to facility on Martin Way. Seven of them considered to be level three – a high risk to re-offend, and one level two.
Their convictions include for rape, rape of a child, child molestation and unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation.
Among them is Eric Wyatt, who failed to return to Western State Psychiatric Hospital after he was given a one-day pass in 2014.
DOC officers then described Wyatt as having the mental capacity of a 14-year-old, who cannot control his sexual urges and is considered a danger to the community.
"We aren't going to stop, we aren't going to go away," Tuttle said. "We are here to end SVP releases into our communities."
Residents say they are being blindsided by the locations and sudden pop-up of such housing facilities.
The housing facility has two dance studios nearby, one across the street another behind it.
Adrienne Summers, a Thurston County resident, says her daughter used to go to one of those studios, and she had no idea what the facility was.
"The businesses that are next to this one for example, are not even aware that there's sex-offenders that are housed here," Summers said. "I think we're seeing a pattern; it's intentional. This is not a surprise. It's not something that ‘Oh, whoops some oversight’ – this is intentional. They're doing it as quietly as possible."
Republican Representative Travis Couture is helping introduce key bipartisan bills, including House Bill 1751. It seeks to address the public notice loophole – making sure residents are informed every step of the way if and when sex offender housing would be coming to their neighborhoods.
"I don't disagree with them, it's not enough just to get public notice," Representative Couture said. "What most people are asking for is that we approved McNeil Island as the use for where we would civilly commit Sexually Violent Predators."
He says it's important to emphasize they are not imprisoned, rather they are committed to a rehabilitation program, since they are likely to re-offend again.
However, because Senate Bill 5163 passed during the 2021-2022 legislative session, there's a "fair-share" of housing. Instead of placing SVPs in either Kitsap or Pierce County, they're now starting to "spread" them across the state.
"But there is no fair share within the counties," Couture said. "Residential communities, sometimes rural, like in my district in Tenino, residents are kind of getting blindsided, because what we found was there was no real public notice in the law."
Couture says he and other lawmakers took things a step further by introducing House Bill 1813. The bill sponsored by Representative Dan Griffey has bipartisan support from Representative Beth Doglio.
"The bill essentially puts a moratorium on the citing of new LRAs and the placement of SVPs," Couture explained. "While we can convene a task force to seek ways in which we can improve this system of placement of SVPs in a manner which really promotes public safety."
Couture met with Governor Jay Inslee earlier this week and said their conversation was "really nice".
"He seemed very interested in the subject," Couture said. "The indication that was given to me from him and his policy staff was that they were willing to seek ways to help out either with these bills or in other ways."
The representative is hopeful as lawmakers are running up against a deadline to get these bills into the legislative session.
The policy cut off is Friday, Feb. 17, but they first have to be heard in committee and voted through.
"Even if an SVP doesn't escape, it only takes one time and that's one time too many," Couture said. "If McNeil Island is expensive, then that's a cost we should be willing to bear for the safety of our innocent people and victims of sexual crimes in my district and across the state."
The facility in Tenino is still vacant after Thurston County Council filed a cease and desist order until Supreme Living brings their facility up to code.
"Public safety matters more than money," Tuttle said.