News

Sex offenders prompt outrage

A high-risk sex offender is living out of his truck in a parking lot on Midway Boulevard in Oak Harbor.

Another Level 3 sex offender will be getting out of prison this month. The 24-year-old man with a long history of parole violations will likely live somewhere on North or Central Whidbey Island.

About 60 people crowded into a city meeting expressed concern, outrage and bewilderment about this news during the Island County Sheriff’s Office community notification meeting Thursday night.

“I just think this whole system is sick,” said resident Betty Gable. “I don’t think they should ever be out. They should never be out.”

Sheriff Mike Hawley organized the meeting to let residents know about the two sex offenders and to educate the community about sex-offender laws. He explained the process he goes through to determine what level of risk each registered sex offender presents to the community.

He looks at criminal history, drug abuse, treatment history, compliance with sanctions, family support and various other factors to gauge risk.

In the case of John Hartman, Hawley concluded that the 37-year-old sex offender posed a high-risk of re-offending. Hartman has a lengthy criminal history of both sexual and non-sexual offenses.

Hartman was convicted of three separate sex-related offenses. His victims were females, ranging in ages from 6 to adult. Most recently, he pleaded guilty in Island County Superior in 1999 to indecent liberties without forcible compulsion for molesting a relative’s 6-year-old daughter.

A judge ordered Hartman to go through sex offender treatment while in prison, but he withdrew from the program.

Hartman got out of prison Thursday and registered at the Sheriff’s Office, as required by law.

Hawley said Hartman, along with the other risks, automatically became a Level 3 sex offender because he’s homeless.

Community Corrections Officer Helen Desmond is responsible for supervising Hartman. She said he doesn’t have a place to live, so under state law he has to return to the county where he was last convicted.

“Mr. Hartman had no intention of coming here,” Desmond said.

Hartman has to check in at the office three times a week.

“He’ll be living in his truck,” she said, “in our parking lot in front of our office.”

Desmond said the Department of Corrections cannot mandate conditions for Hartman beyond what the court ordered, which is that he cannot use drugs or have contact with the victim or the victim’s family for 10 years. She said she plans to ask the court to order more conditions on his release, which could include things like staying away from minors, submitting to urinalysis or being banned from pornography.

On the other hand, Jared Vandewerfhorst will have to abide by a long series of conditions when he is released from prison July 28.

Vandewerfhorst pleaded guilty in Lewis County in 1999 to kidnapping in the second degree with sexual motivation and second-degree assault of a child with sexual motivation. He tricked his employer’s 11-year-old son into driving with him to a secluded area, where he assaulted the boy.

Community Corrections Officer Rob Diekman will be responsible for supervising Vandewerfhorst. He said the young man has a lengthy history of violating the conditions of his release, which is what landed him back in prison. Vandewerfhorst was originally supposed to be off supervision in April, but it was extended to October because of the violations.

After that, Vandewerfhorst will be on his own.

Diekman said Vandewerfhorst’s violations have included drug and alcohol use, unattended contact with minors and viewing of child pornography.

“I’m really concerned about Jared,” he said. “We’re into three and a half years of supervision and his violation behavior is persisting. I believe it’s getting a little worse.”

Under conditions of release, Vandewerfhorst is banned from pornography, areas where children congregate or any unapproved contact with minors. He must attend sex offender treatment, chemical dependency treatment and anger management counseling.

Diekman said Vandewerfhorst previously lived on Monroe Landing Road, but likely won’t be allowed to live there when he returns. He said the DOC hasn’t yet determined where he can reside.

Hawley told the crowd that the purpose of giving out so much information about these men is so that residents can be aware and take the necessary precautions. He said that’s the purpose of the sex offender notification law.

“The beauty of this law,” he said, “is that it allows you to take preventive measures.”

Also, the community can help keep an eye on these men and the county’s 85 other registered sex offenders. He said anyone who sees one of the men violating their conditions or acting in a suspicious manner should call 911.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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