A Santa Clara Superior Court judge on Tuesday rejected the state’s plan to locate a sexually violent predator near Lincoln after Placer County officials and residents argued the placement would pose a danger to children in the area.
After hearing testimony for several hours Tuesday, Judge Michele McKay McCoy decided that Dariel Shazier cannot live in a home on Kilaga Springs Road. Nearly two dozen Placer residents, as well as a host of county and city officials, appeared at the hearing about 150 miles from where Shazier would have been placed.
Shazier, 50, has no apparent ties to Placer County, and the state has faced difficulty in finding suitable locations for sexually violent predators because of community concerns and laws restricting where sex offenders can live. The case was being heard in Santa Clara County because that’s where he last resided.
McKay McCoy said the Placer County placement was inappropriate. She was concerned about potential problems with GPS and cellphone service in the rural area northeast of Lincoln. She also said she wasn’t persuaded that the state contractor supervising Shazier, Liberty Healthcare, would guarantee the community’s safety based on its track record.
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She said Shazier’s proposed residence was too close to boys in his preferred age group and could provide stimulation harmful to his treatment.
“Everyone will know who he is,” she said. “There will be no integration.”
McKay McCoy told Santa Clara prosecutors and public defenders handling the case to return in April with a new proposal for Shazier’s placement.
A judge who previously had the case approved Shazier’s release into the community in February 2016. In his three-page ruling after a trial, Judge Richard Loftus said last year that all seven experts who testified found that Shazier was still mentally ill, but could safely live in the community with proper support.
The ruling did not specify Shazier’s illness. But in a 2010 trial, clinical psychologist Carolyn Murphy testified that his illness was paraphilia, an abnormal sexual desire characterized by violent and extreme activity. Shazier, like everyone with the illness, would continue to show symptoms the rest of his life, she said.
Shazier has been locked in state hospitals for nearly a decade after determinations by two juries that he was a sexually violent predator. He qualified for that designation as a result of two prior convictions of molesting teenage boys, in which he used alcohol and then forcibly assaulted them.
The contractor responsible for the community placement program, Liberty Healthcare, searched nearly 7,000 properties in Northern California before choosing the Placer County location, said Alan Stillman, who runs the program. He said the placement would be safe because the home stands a good distance from others in the area and because it adheres to Jessica’s Law, which prohibits some sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
The safety of the program is proven by the fact that no sexually violent predator on community release has assaulted another person, he said.
Of the 37 sexually violent predators released into community placement, 13 have been revoked for violating program requirements, said Department of State Hospitals spokesman Ralph Montano. Another sexually violent predator was convicted of having child pornography.
Liberty Healthcare employee Benjamin Hoffman testified that Shazier would wear a GPS monitor and initially have around-the-clock supervision by company employees. The employees would watch Shazier in person, he said.
On cross-examination, Hoffman acknowledged that the employees would not have weapons or authority to use any sort of force to respond to an attack by Shazier. The employee would call 911 in such a situation, he said.
Liberty Healthcare employees have said they face challenges locating sexually violent predators because of community opposition and Jessica’s Law. Shazier is one of four sexually violent predators awaiting approval for a home, Montano said.
Besides local residents, the mayor and police chief of Lincoln and the Placer County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office had representatives at the hearing. All of them opposed Shazier’s placement in their community.
Placer County Detective Scott Alford told the court that children live throughout the area, and many others visit the area because of youth activities.
“Mr. Shazier will hear the boys play when he’s sitting in the room,” he said. “It will be too much temptation for him.”
The Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction over the unincorporated area, and does not have the resources to properly respond to the property, he said. It takes the Sheriff’s Office an average of 23 minutes to respond to a call there, and deputies may not get proper notification of an emergency because of poor cellphone service in the area, he said.
Scott Leaman, superintendent of the Western Placer Unified School District, said Shazier’s placement “would send a shudder through Placer County. ... We wonder how a court could do this to us.”
Shazier’s past practice of enticing children as a trusting karate instructor makes him a “groomer” who takes advantage of children, he said. Rural Placer children are trusting, making them vulnerable to such people, he said.
Parents who live near the proposed home also spoke out. Vanessa Van Dyke said the placement would “take away our ability to provide a safe home. ... It’s a pretty scary thought knowing he could watch us on our property.”