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Public urges housing committee to avoid sending violent sex offender to Santa Cruz County RV | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Santa Cruz Assistant City Attorney Cassie Bronson on Wednesday addresses the housing committee assigned to locate housing for state-designated sexually violent predator Michael Cheek. (Jessica A. York — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ — Appealing to a committee assigned the task of locating housing for a convicted sex offender, a Santa Cruz County resident urged representatives on Wednesday to be careful in their release plan.

Rayeann Jimenez said that while 71-year-old Michael Cheek had been deemed as no longer a safety risk to the public after completing his prison sentence and subsequent years of mental health treatment, he also had no healthy ties to the county where one of his two violent rape convictions took place in 1980.

Jimenez spoke before a room with just a handful of other public attendees in a county conference room after the group had returned from a closed-door discussion about housing efforts on behalf of Cheek. The body, which included members appearing virtually from Sacramento, reported no decisions made during the closed session.

To date, the committee, including representatives from California Department of State Hospitals, their housing contractor Liberty Healthcare Corp., the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and County Counsel and Cheek’s defense attorney, has been unable to find a suitable housing location for Cheek after years of searching. Cheek’s attorney, Stephen Prekoski, was not present at Wednesday’s meeting, but has urged Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Syda Cogliati to consider a so-called transient release for his client, at either a fixed or unfixed location, if no housing can be secured.

“Transient release means without a home base,” Jimenez told the committee. “It’s incredibly difficult to monitor somebody who is not in a known location, even with an electronic monitor. It doesn’t say what he’s doing, it doesn’t stop what he’s doing, it just says where he’s at, if he doesn’t cut it off.”

Santa Cruz Assistant City Attorney Cassie Bronson said her employer had attempted to contact Liberty to make officials aware of limitations related to placing Cheek in a recreational vehicle that would reside in protected parking programs for those living in their vehicles. In addition to lengthy waiting lists for both the city’s single RV safe parking program and the private Association of Faith Communities program, both efforts prioritize participants working toward housing and/or serving families with children — neither of which applies to Cheek, she said.

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