- Photo by Kelly Davis
A judge today agreed to release sexually violent predator Mikel Marshall to a house in Jacumba Hot Springs, contingent on Marshall signing off on roughly three-dozen pages of conditions.
In this week's CityBeat, I wrote about the challenges of reintegrating guys like Marshall back into the community. California's sexually violent predator statute says that if a person's committed certain sexual offenses and is found to have a mental disorder driving that behavior, he can be sent to a state hospital to complete a multi-part treatment program. Treatment's not mandatory, but those who don't participate won't be considered for release. Marshall, who was committed to Coalinga State Hospital in 2008, completed all three phases and, in October 2012, petitioned to be released with the recommendation of his treating clinician and hospital staff.
Rules governing where SVPs can live (it can't be in proximity to schools, parks, daycare centers or places where children gather) and a dearth of landlords willing to rent to a high-profile tenant have limited where San Diego County's very small number of released SVPs can go. Rural areas, so far, have been really the only option, which upsets residents of close-knit communities like Jacumba Hot Springs. The house Marshall will be living in sits perched above a canyon and looks down on a home where three small children live. The kids' mom, Merritt Wyeth, showed up to court today and asked to speak to Judge Howard Shore about Marshall's placement. Her family will no longer feel safe, she told Shore.
"This is my children's childhood that you're going to take away," she said.
Shore said this wasn't an easy decision to make, but emphasized that state law allows for outpatient treatment when a person's been deemed to no longer pose a threat to the community. Shore said that during the initial hearings on Marshall's release, back in August, he heard testimony on the difference between "preferential offenders," who "will always be predators," and "situational offenders," who, the judge said, "harbor the ability to reflect, change and eventually become productive members of society."
Marshall, Shore believes, falls into the latter category.
"Being uncomfortable and not wanting a person here is not the same as him being a danger," Shore said, adding that he had no legal grounds on which to deny Marshall's placement in Jacumba. Shore emphasized that Marshall is the first SVP for whom he's granted release.
Marshall will be monitored by Liberty Healthcare for at least the first year and required to adhere to a long list of conditions. "Liberty Healthcare has never had anyone under their supervision reoffend," Shore noted. "The main complaint of these offenders is they still feel like they're in prison."
According to court filings, Marshall hopes to secure a job with his family's business and possibly marry his long-term girlfriend.
Marshall will be released by Feb. 10 and on May 19, there will be a 90-day review hearing.
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