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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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State Officials Answer Questions On New Sex Offender At Pound Home

Issue Date: February 27, 2020

Despite passage of Act 184 in March of 2018, another violent sex offender from outside the area will be moving into a residence on South 7th Road in the Town of Pound that the State Department of Health Services leases for that purpose from a private vendor. Act 184 which requires sex offenders to be placed in their county of residence.

Willard D.Tyler, who comes from the La Crosse area, will be the fourth 980 registered violent sex offender to live at the residence in Pound since it was established three years ago. The first one is still living there and the other two have been returned to their home counties.

The State Division of Health Services leases the residence from the private vendor, Housing Opportunities and Programs, owned by Knight Barry Real Estate, for $2,500 a month whether it is occupied or not. It is approved as a residence for two released sex offenders at a time and currently only one is living there. Tyler was expected to arrive on or near Wednesday, Feb. 26.

A questioner at the meeting was told that this vendor owns a number of sex offender residences all over the state. The DOH will not place more than two offenders in a single home on the supervised release program.

Assignment of this 980 offender to live in Marinette County was done by Judge Ramona Gonzales in La Crosse County after she ruled that Act 184 does not apply to offenders who were approved for release prior to its passage. Tyler apparently has been trying for placement under supervised release since mid-2015. Several other Wisconsin Circuit Court judges have reached the same conclusion. A law that would have filled that loophole was passed by the legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Anthony Evers. Town Chairman Jerry Heroux said that law would also have required notification of town officials before a registered sex offender was assigned to live there.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve was notified of Tyler's pending assignment to Marinette County, and due to the nature of his offense set up a community informational meeting at Pound Town Hall on Thursday, Feb. 20.

Tyler, now 53 years old, is 5'5" tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was convicted of First Degree Sexual Assault of minor girls in LaCrosse in 1985 and since then has been either in prison or at Sandridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, where he has spent most of his time since 1995. Sandridge is a mental treatment facility that houses Wisconsin's Sexually Violent Persons Program.

Numerous state Department of Health Services and Department of Corrections officials participated in Thursday's sparsely attended community meeting in Pound. They, and Sauve, stressed that Tyler has served his time in prison and subsequently at Sandridge and has been deemed suitable for the supervised release program.

The state officials also stressed that Tyler will be under very strict supervision, particularly for the first year, and will be wearing a GPS bracelet. For the first year he will not be allowed to be outside the residence except when under direct supervision, and will be required to comply with numerous other supervision rules.

Not mentioned at the meeting was that in 2011, Tyler was released to Prairie Du Chien, wearing an ankle bracelet. According to a news publication there, on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 at approximately 11p.m., the Prairie du Chien Police Department attempted a Probation and Parole arrest at 517 East Blackhawk Avenue in the City of Prairie du Chien. The officers did not receive an answer at the door so Probation and Parole was notified and the officers were able to gain access with their assistance. Once inside they did not find the subject, but did find the electronic monitoring device cut off and on the floor.

Immediately a national alert was sent out electronically through the dispatch center to law enforcement agencies. At approximately 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 Tyler was apprehended by a Crawford County Deputy and was taken to the Crawford County Jail before his supervised release was revoked and he was returned to Sandridge.

Among those present for the Pound meeting were several Marinette County Sheriff's Department officers, including Sheriff Jerry Sauve and Lt. Chris Lesperance; Mick Chase and Scott Timm of the State Department of Health Services; Julie Krause, former Marinette County Probation and Parole Officer with the State Department of Corrections who now heads the State Sex Offender Registry, Dawn Ragen and Chad Pervesky of the Department of Corrections office in Marinette, and more.

Sauve said when announcing the community informational meeting that he feels an informed public is a safer public. He stressed that Tyler has served his sentence and is not wanted for anything at this time.

Lesperance said local law enforcement is allowed to hold community informational meetings when violent sex offenders move in, but they are not required to do so. "Because Tyler has a significant criminal history, we took it this next step," he explained. In many cases, only immediate neighbors are notified. However, information on registered sex offenders is readily available on-line at www.widocoffenders.org. Searches can be done by zip code or by name.

Tyler will be the fourth 袤" sex offender to be living at the South 7th Road residence. The home is approved to house two residents, but currently only one is living there, so there is room for Tyler.

Sauve said his department has had no problem with the sex offenders who have resided in that home over the three years it has existed, and if there is even a brief power outage that interferes with reception from the GPS monitored ankle bracelets officers are sent to bring them to the jail until service is restored.

"You can't determine who is a sex offender by looking at them," Krause declared in a brief address explaining the sex offender program. She displayed a screen shot of 12 very different individuals, male and female, young and old, attractive and unattractive, and said every one of them is a sex offender.

She outlined the background of the sex registry program, which was started after the 1989 kidnapping and murder of Jacob Wetterling. In 1996 Megan Kanka lived near a registered sex offender, but no one knew it until after she was found murdered. In 2006 Adam Walsh, a 5-year-old, was found murdered and again the sex offender registration rules were tightened and made more uniform.

"Sex offenders thrive on secrecy," Krause declared. "If we can share information and educate the public, everyone is safer"an informed public is a safer public."

Krause said not all sex offenders are required to register, but those who are must do so for life, or for 15 years after their discharge date. They must notify authorities within 10 days of their move-in date, and non-compliance is a class H felony punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 or 10 years in prison.

There are currently 163 registered sex offenders living in Marinette County, 42 of whom are on supervision.

When an offender moves into a community neighbors can be individually notified by law agents, or targeted meetings or community meetings like the one in progress can be held, Krause said.

She noted one in four girls and one in six boys will be a victim of a sex offender, and most go unreported, and most of the time it is not a stranger. Sexual predators groom their victims and become a friend. Only seven percent are assaulted by a stranger.

Krause urged parents to know where their children are going, with whom, and when they will be back, and to have a buddy system and stick together. She also urged parents to talk to their kids and talk to neighbor kids about the early warning signs, and to urge them to create a network of trusted adults and talk about things that make them uncomfortable, and keep talking until someone listens.

As to the registered sex offenders, it is better to know where they are living, and having a stable place to live reduces their drive to re-offend, Krause said.

There are 43 registered sex offenders living in Marinette County, four of them termed violent sex offenders. Pound Town Chair Jerry Heroux pointed out that of them, only one is a 980 offender. Tyler will be the second currently living in Marinette County. "These two get a lot more attention than the other 41," Heroux pointed out.

Offenders who get sent to Sandridge go there only after a long court process, and their release also comes after a long court process. Only a judge can order supervised release and the judge determines terms of the discharge.

"We firmly believe a supervised transition back into the community is safer for the community and better for the patient," Krause declared.

Scott Timm, a contract specialist for the southwest part of the state, was also among state officials at the Pound meeting. He said on Jan. 19, 2018, La Crosse County was identified as Tyler's county of residence and he was approved for supervised release. Since then, Timm said they had conducted hundreds of searches trying to find a suitable residence for him. Then Act 185 was passed, and the DOH asked the court to determine if it applied to Tyler. On July 8, 2019, Gonzales ruled it did not apply to him. If it had, LaCrosse County would have been required to find a place for him to live under supervision. Gonzales subsequently ordered him placed in the Marinette County residence.

To no avail, Pound town officials have protested the sex offender home since it was established three years ago in a rural residential area of their town.

Heroux commented it is interesting that at no point was LaCrosse County ordered to find a place for Tyler. Heroux had prepared a timetable of events leading to the latest placement ruling.

Tyler's original hearing for placement was on Jan. 19, 2018. Act 184, requiring placement in the offender's county of residence, was passed on March 30, 2018. On Aug. 1, 2019, the town board was notified by Krista Rick of the Department of Health that Tyler would be placed in the 7th Road residence in the town as Judge Gonzalez had ruled that the original placement hearing preceded Act 184.

Subsequently Heroux and the Town Board contacted Town Attorney Kim Coggins, and contacted state and county political representatives.

On Aug. 15 they sent letters to Rick, and to Senator Dave Hansen, Rep. John Nygren, and Rep. Jeff Mursau seeking their help. Those appeals led to passage of bill 60, which would have plugged the loophole, but it was not signed into law by Gov. Evers.

The Aug. 15 letter to Rick was approved by Heroux and all four Town Supervisors - John Gaffney,David Pellman, Dennis Fiedorowicz and Mike Zeitler. It stated the board unanimously agreed to formally request that Rick choose another site for Tyler, which they felt should be in La Crosse County for a number of reasons, including belief that intent of the law was that it should take precedence over other laws then in effect, and that each county should accept its responsibilities. Among arguments prior to passage of that law was that the released offenders would generally be better off in their home communities, where they might have support from family and friends.

"The last placements by DHS at this site caused irreparable harm to residents of the Town of Pound," the letter stated. "Two of our finest young families abandoned their dream homes rather than to have their young children live near the sex offenders."

In a Jan. 20, 2020 letter from the Town Board to Judge Gonzalez Heroux enclosed a copy of the letter sent to the DHS substantiating their opposition to the placement of Tyler, and noted, "Recent legislation has indicated the intent of placements be directed by the county that they resided in at the time of their crime. As our letter indicates, we are now willing to accept Marinette County placements for former Marinette County residents. However, it is unfair to ask us to take placements from La Crosse County or any other county in the state who should be responsible for their residents."

The letter goes on to ask the judge to deny placement in Marinette County and refer the placement back to LaCrosse County. She ruled instead that Tyler should be placed in Marinette County.

At the meeting, Mick explained some of the 72 rules Tyler will be required to follow during his first year on supervised release. He explained the treatment plan changes on a continuing basis, and is intended to introduce the person back into the community. He said for the first year Tyler will be virtually on house arrest, and only be allowed to go outside for very specific activities and while under direct supervision of a "monitor," meaning that when outside the house he must be at all times within sight, reach and sound of the person responsible for him.

Mick said they do the best they can at Sandridge, but cannot do the "field trips" to accustom residents to life in the community.

Timm said Sandridge looks and feels like a prison, complete with barbed wire.

Asked if Tyler is considered dangerous now, Timm said he is committed under 980, and added, "No one can tell you he will commit another crime".or that he will not commit another crime."

Heroux pointed out to the state people that there is still a great deal of concern, worry and bitterness in the Town of Pound toward the Department of Health because of the effect their approval of the 7th Road residence had on the town, particularly the two young families. He said one of the families had just moved out, and were unable to even sell their home for two or three years. They said they could not take a chance of letting their children play outside. The other family got help from family members and took a second job inn order to buy another home to get away from the sex offender residence.

"This whole vendor system is wrong and needs to be looked into," he declared. "We felt with the new law we were not at risk, but now we find out it doesn't apply here."

He was told there are currently 24,980 offenders awaiting placement outside the facility, but none are likely to be sent to Pound. He also was told that of the 175 980 offenders placed in the community since 1994 only three have been convicted of a new sex crime.

Tim said restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live in relation to parks, schools, homes with young children, etc. are part of the reason so many are being sent to live in rural areas. This is the only approved 980 home in Wisconsin north of Hwy. 64.

"So we get the worst of the worst," commented former Marinette County Board Chair Claryce Maedke, who is a Town of Pound resident.

Timm agreed the individuals placed there are under the highest level of supervision they can have and still be out in the community.

Mick explained the DHS and DOC work together on supervision of the placed individuals. DOC contracts with Attic Correctional Services, and they train the monitors that DHS contracts for the in-home monitoring. That contract currently is also with Attic Correctional Services.

Ragen explained she will also see the released offender regularly, and offered to answer questions from the community.

If a GPS bracelet is cut or tampered with in any way, or if the electricity is off, an immediate alert goes out, 24/7, and Sauve and his deputies will pick up the individual immediately.

Ragen said she has "red zone" areas marked on the GPS system where the offenders are not allowed to go. A grandparent who lives near the 7th Road house said a 2-year-old grandchild visits frequently, and Ragen said she will mark their home as a "red zone."

Asked about response time if a call goes out, Sauve acknowledged that Marinette County is huge, but that would be a priority call and anybody near would come out. That would include mutual aid from City of Peshtigo and Coleman Police, Wisconsin State Patrol, Oconto County, and Wisconsin DNR.


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