SPOKANE, Wash. - When a judge allowed the release of a sexually violent predator into Spokane last month, law enforcement and many in the community were outraged. While that offender appears to be following his strict regulations so far, his release has exposed problems at a local apartment complex, once seen as a model for rehabilitation.
David McCuistion has a long rap sheet of rapes and sexual assaults. He served time in prison, then was civilly committed to the state facility for sexual predators on McNeil Island. When he petitioned for a conditional review this year, he had not done any sex offender treatment. State law allows a judge to release someone from the Special Commitment Center if they have a secure, approved place to live and agree to sexual offender treatment upon release.
McCuistion asked to come to Spokane, despite having no ties here. The judge determined it was appropriate, saying Pierce and King Counties had a disproportionate number of sexually violent predators. McCuistion secured housing at the New Washington Apartments in Spokane; over the objections of the Department of Corrections, Spokane Police and the Spokane Sheriff's Office, a judge agreed to release McCuistion here, requiring the owner and manager of the apartment building to sign a document, agreeing to hold him to the court's strict rules.
The New Washington Apartments have been housing recently-released offenders for years. The New York Times even wrote about the facility a decade ago, holding it up as a model for this type of transitional housing. But, something has changed. Instead of the non-nonsense woman who ran the facility before, it is now run by her son - a convicted sex offender. It's consistently managed by sex offenders as well. DOC stopped placing offenders here in 2015, citing bug infestations, security concerns and general disrepair. But, a Pierce County Judge decided McCuistion would be safe here.
That placement launched a kxly4 News investigation. We found 16 high-risk sex offenders living inside. We also found that people called police from that address 243 times between October 1, 2015 and October 1, 2016; that's an average of five calls a week, every week for the entire year.
"It does [surprise me] that it's that many," said Spokane Police Lt. Steve Wohl. "But, what we have to realize is that's not [leading to] a police response on everything."
Certainly, 243 calls for service doesn't equal 243 crimes. But, every police officer we talked to agreed, that's an extremely high number of calls for one location in Spokane.
Our search of Department of Corrections records uncovered even more problems inside. Their records include a manager, who was arrested for having sex with a developmentally delayed resident. They include descriptions of drugs and alcohol throughout the building, which offenders like McCuistion aren't allowed to be around. And, DOC cites the case of Peter Savala. He was also released from McNeil Island and moved into the New Washington Apartments. He was last seen entering the building on May 15th. It wasn't until May 20th that someone found his body, decomposing on his bed. He was surrounded by drug paraphernalia.
Most of us can't imagine living like this. But, because of a court order, McCuistion has nowhere else to go. So, when the apartment owner threatened to evict him less than a week after he moved in, it turned the situation into chaos.
"This has created a very dangerous situation not only for the community at large, but Mr McCuistion himself," DOC wrote in a motion for the judge to change McCuistion's release plan. "It was, quite frankly, absurd to release a Sexually Violent Predator knowing that there is no sustainable transition plan from the start and this was, in effect, setting him up for failure."
DOC will bring that motion to court Friday in Pierce County. Despite telling us the owner and manager of the New Washington Apartments have been "helpful and cooperative", McCuistion's attorney filed a motion, requesting the state Department of Social and Health Services find a new place for McCuistion to live by January.
In the meantime, should our community be concerned about this facility in the heart of downtown Spokane, now that conditions have deteriorated? The Spokane County Sheriff's Office, which manages sex offender registrations, says the message now is more about awareness than fear.
"I don't think you should undersell the potential danger there, really," said Captain John Nowles. "But, on the other hand... as far as the law is concerned, these people have the right to go about and live their lives like everybody else."
Several businesses nearby have told us they'd consider moving, now that security appears to be lacking. Other leaders have concerns that businesses may avoid locating in that section of downtown, if public safety is a concern.
"It depends on what kind of city we want to create," said former Washington state representative Kevin Parker. "If we want to create an economically vital city, if we want to create a city that people enjoy walking in and having fun, then sex offenders in the middle of it is not wise."
We tried to talk to the owner of the New Washington Apartments and the manager. They hung up repeatedly, saying we're trying to ruin their reputations. But, only they can answer the questions about what's happening there, turning what was once a model for rehabilitation into a four-story community concern.
If you live in Spokane County and want to know about sex offenders living in your area, you can type in any address in this database for more information. You can sign up for address alerts as well, to be notified if a new offender moves in.
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