The search for housing for a convicted sex offender in Santa Cruz County has hit a roadblock, as the committee responsible for locating a suitable location grapples with various challenges. In a recent meeting, Rayeann Jimenez, a concerned resident, urged representatives to exercise caution in their release plan for 71-year-old Michael Cheek. Cheek, no longer deemed a safety risk to the public following his prison sentence and years of mental health treatment, has limited ties to the county where one of his two violent rape convictions occurred in 1980.
The committee, comprising representatives from the California Department of State Hospitals, housing contractor Liberty Healthcare Corp., the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, County Counsel, and Cheek’s defense attorney, has been tirelessly searching for a suitable housing solution. Unfortunately, their efforts have thus far been unsuccessful.
Cheek’s attorney, Stephen Prekoski, has proposed the possibility of a transient release for his client as a last resort. This means that Cheek would not have a fixed location, making it incredibly difficult to monitor him effectively, even with an electronic monitor. Santa Cruz Assistant City Attorney Cassie Bronson raised concerns about placing Cheek in recreational vehicles, as this could potentially endanger vulnerable populations, including families with children who participate in the city’s safe parking programs.
Residents are equally appalled by the prospect of housing a convicted rapist in Santa Cruz County. Helena Quixada, a concerned citizen, raised questions about why Cheek couldn’t be placed in a more affordable location like Fresno or Stockton. Quixada emphasized the strain on resources and taxpayer money that would be required to accommodate Cheek in Santa Cruz County.
Deborah Elston, founder of the Santa Cruz Neighbors group, emphasized the importance of considering the implications of placing a designated sexually violent predator in an RV rather than in a permanent or stable residence. These concerns will likely play a role in the court’s decision on Cheek’s case, which is scheduled to return before Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Syda Cogliati on August 8.
The committee faces an arduous task in finding a suitable housing solution for Michael Cheek, considering the unique challenges and concerns expressed by both representatives and the community. It remains to be seen how this sensitive and complex issue will be resolved in the weeks to come.