Residents vow to keep families safe 'by whatever means necessary' as transfer of sex offenders continues

The fight to stop the transfer of five sex offenders from McNeil island into a home in Tenino is far from over.

Several gathered outside the proposed less restrictive alternative, LRA, facility Feb. 1, when Supreme Living, the contracting company, said they were expecting their first resident, a sexual violent offender, to move in.

Those plans, currently on hold after the Thurston County Council filed a cease-and-desist letter until the home meets with code compliance requirements.

"We love our kids, it’s our whole families," residents chanted.

"This is not keeping us safe, who says It’s going to stop here?" another questioned.

Their signs reading "Community over Profit", "Protect People not Predators" and "Keep Tenino Safe".

"They're not just predators for children, they’re predators for the women, the children, the boys, the men, everybody’s at risk here," resident said.

"There’s plenty of other options for putting sexual predators somewhere for the rest of their lives," another Tenino resident said.


'Disgusted by the dishonesty': Tenino residents rally to stop facility from housing sex offenders

Residents are pushing back against a facility meant, to house sex offenders from McNeil Island, from coming into their neighborhood.

The Department of Social and Health Services and Department of Corrections held a virtual town hall where they addressed some of their concerns including safety, training, violations and escapes.

Many have been wondering why a home next to a playground and ski lake with little to no secure fencing was chosen.

DSHS said they posted they would start taking bids for the LRA on August 31, 2021. They didn't receive any. They extended their request through April 2022 to identify contractors.

"And continued to have no responses for anyone interested in developing a LRA home for our program," DSHS said.

However, Supreme Living is a known contractor to DSHS. They have a contract with another program.

"That's how we came into contact with her [CEO of Supreme Living] and then she had a home and she was interested in contracting with us and that's how this contract came about," DSHS said.

Sarah Fox, a Tenino resident, says she only found out January 11 about the proposed facility; but officials say they reached out to the Sheriff in mid-December.

They noted there was a change in sheriffs and met say they met with Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders two weeks ago.

DOC Civil Commitment Program Manager, Brandon Duncan, says they're required to an investigation into the LRA facility and community 60 days prior as mandated by the court. They're required to look at concerns related schools, parks, playgrounds, transportation and potential victims.

They noted the playground next to the facility was not there when they submitted their findings still they said the courts were aware of the ski lake and believe the home is suitable for residents to continue their treatment.

Offenders on McNeil Island are said to be diagnosed with mental abnormalities that make them likely to re-offend.

"McNeil Island is not a prison," DSHS said. "It is still a treatment facility, residents don’t come there an remain there indefinitely."

The transfer of a sexual violent predator, SVP, to an LRA, is a court ordered continuation of their treatment and rehabilitation after a forensic evaluation that could lead to their reintegration into society. 

"We have never had a resident, on conditional release be convicted of a hands-on re-offense since 1991," Duncan said.

Before SVPs leave McNeil Island they're registered with the Sheriff Department and have a GSP (ankle monitor) installed along with the restricted areas of when and where they're allowed to. Their contact is also limited.

Specialists are assigned to SVPs in this case, DSHS says the contract for the LRA in Tenino requires someone to be in the home monitoring the resident 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kathy Taylor, watched the town hall with other concerned residents at the Little Rock Fire Department with Jeremy Sawyer, who was awarded what he thought would be his forever home by ‘Homes for Our Troops’ three years ago.

"Criminals, are going to criminal, that's what they do," Sawyer said.

"No sex offender has ever said 'Oh, I can't do that, I have an ankle monitor'," Taylor said.

She and many others are concerned with power outages and spotty cell service hindering the devices.

DOC says their GPS trackers will not be impacted and residents will be limited to places they can and cannot go as well as limiting who they're allowed to have contact with.

Officials say specialist have the authority to immediately return a resident to total confinement if they find they are a risk to the community.

Still residents say their biggest concerns are how and when they will be notified if a resident escapes the facility.

Duncan says they would reach out to the resident and attempt to locate them if they cannot be located law enforcement and the DOC's fugitive apprehension teams are immediately notified.

DOC immediately enters a warrant for the resident into their system and when the resident is arrested they're taking into custody and placed in confinement.

An escape from the LRA can result in a new felony charge for the resident.

Thurston County has nine sexual violent offenders, seven of them are living in McNeil Island and two are in Pierce County.

There are 86 total cases across King, Pierce, Spokane, Walla Walla, Snohomish and Kitsap Counties.

"In a perfect world, I want them to say 'We're going to keep these sexual deviants on McNeil Island'," Taylor said.

DSHS says residents cook, clean, learn how to create a resume and communicate effectively as part of their ongoing treatment.

Sawyer is now wondering how this is going to impact his property value. He said he would've rather had the state seek out additional funds to keep both residents and the community safe.

"I think a lot of us would have been fine paying a little bit extra on our taxes to keep them in [McNeil Island] such an atmosphere and environment," Sawyer said.

With several unanswered questions, residents say the safety of their community is now on them.

"I'm not going to be put at ease," Sawyer said. "If anything, I am more  vigilant now than I was before, I think all of us are after this meeting."

"We will keep our families safe by whatever means necessary," Taylor said.

For now, the home remains vacant, FOX 13 reached out to CEO of Supreme Living to find out when residents are expected to move in, we are waiting to hear back,