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Governor intervenes in sex offender move

Sheriff Mark Brown discusses registered sex offenders at a community meeting in Oak Harbor Wednesday. -
Sheriff Mark Brown discusses registered sex offenders at a community meeting in Oak Harbor Wednesday.
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Gov. Christine Gregoire personally saw to it that a high-risk, Level 3 sex offender won’t be roaming the streets of Oak Harbor.

Sidney Summiel, 43, was released from prison Friday after serving nearly five years for second-degree child rape. He moved to Everett, to an apartment where the landlord is supportive of offenders.

Originally, the Department of Corrections ruled that Summiel had to move to Oak Harbor, even though he would be homeless and near one of his victims. The former Navy man wanted to move to Everett, where he had been offered housing. DOC officials cited a year-old state law (Senate Bill 6157) that says an offender must return to the county of his first offense and claimed Summiel didn’t qualify for any of the exemptions.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown was upset by the decision and spoke out. Then state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano, was contacted by the family of a victim and others in Oak Harbor who were also unhappy about the situation. She contacted the governor.

“The fact that the department even considered bringing him here is unacceptable,” Haugen said. “They should always consider the victims first. They are who I am most concerned about.”

Gregoire agreed. Haugen said the governor, who used to the be state attorney general, was astounded by the Department of Correction’s conclusion. She said Gregoire concluded that Summiel in fact qualified to live elsewhere under all four exemptions.

The governor contacted the Department of Corrections and officials there quickly agreed to allow Summiel to live in Everett. In fact, he’s not even allowed to travel to Island County without permission.

The law in question requires an offender to return to the county of origin, which is defined as the location of his or her first felony conviction. Haugen said the reason for the directive was that the majority of registered sex offenders had been moving to the larger counties after being released, which was an unfair burden.

Exceptions are allowed, the law states, if the return to the community is “inappropriate considering any court-ordered condition of the offender’s sentence, victim safety concerns, negative influences on the offender in the community, or the location of family or other sponsoring persons or organizations that will support the offender.”

Haugen said her staff is looking at the law to see if it needs to be tweaked to make sure common sense is considered when placing offenders.

Under a new program created by Gregoire last fall, Summiel will be monitored with a GPS device that allows the Department of Corrections to see where he has been, though the information has to be downloaded and doesn’t show his real-time whereabouts. The program is reserved for the most dangerous sex offenders in the state.

Logistically, the GPS monitoring would have been difficult if Summiel was homeless in Oak Harbor, given that the device has to be charged daily.

Sheriff Brown announced the “good news” about Summiel at a community meeting in Oak Harbor Wednesday night. About 30 citizens were joined by Haugen, Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell, as well as members of law enforcement and the Department of Corrections.

Brown said he had mixed feelings about Summiel’s move to another county.

“It makes sense,” he said. “If that person is going to have any success, having a roof over his head is No. 1.”

Still, he pointed out that the Snohomish County sheriff may not be so excited.

“I don’t know that I feel that good about it,” he said. “Now it’s somebody else’s problem.”

Brown also discussed a moderate-risk, Level 2 sex offender who will be moving to the Oak Harbor area. Ronald Petricko, 38, will be living at a Wilson Road home. He moved from Michigan, where he was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and Internet communication with intent to commit a crime.

In 2002, a Michigan state trooper caught Petricko having sex with a 14-year-old girl in a van parked at a rest area. He had developed a relationship with the girl over the Internet.

Lisa Lee, a community corrections officer who will supervise Petricko, discussed the conditions of his release. The long list includes provisions that bar him from having contact with children 17 or under without her permission, possessing pornography or a computer, drinking alcohol, or going near schools or childcare centers.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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