Residents of Jacumba Hot Springs were notified this week that a man listed as a violent sexual predator was scheduled to move into a home in the East County community in early December, sheriff officials said.
William Stafford, 71, will be transferred from Coalinga State Hospital in Fresno County to a home at 42457 Old Highway 80, where he will live under state supervision, officials said.
A San Diego Superior Court judge ordered he be released there no later than December 2.
Members of the multi-agency Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement, or SAFE, task force went door to door in the neighborhood on Wednesday to distribute notifications.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department warned that the notifications are intended to inform the public, enabling them to protect themselves and their children, but should not incite people to threaten or harass Stafford.
Sexually violent predators make up less than 1% of California’s registered sex offender population. To qualify as a predator, an offender must have been convicted of a sex crime against at least one victim and be diagnosed with a mental disorder that makes them likely to re-offend.
The predator designation comes after a person served a prison sentence and was subsequently committed to a public mental hospital following civil proceedings.
Most offenders who meet the criteria — including Stafford — are confined to Coalinga State Hospital in Fresno County, where they can participate in a program that aims to teach them how to curb their criminal impulses. If they pass the program, they could be released to continue treatment outside the hospital.
According to the district attorney’s office, Stafford was convicted of multiple sex crimes that occurred between 1968 and 1990 in San Diego County, including rape and unlawful intercourse with a girl under 18.
A judge sentenced Stafford in 1990 to state prison. Prior to his release in 2001, the district attorney’s office filed a motion to commit him as a violent sexual predator. A judge found Stafford met the criteria and committed him to the Department of State Hospitals, officials said.
In 2019, Stafford asked the court to release him from hospital under the parole program after experts determined he was safe to return to the community. Judge David Gill granted Stafford’s request in May 2021, allowing him to be released to live under supervision at a location selected by Liberty Healthcare, which runs the scheme.
In October of this year, Gill approved the proposed location after visiting the site on the old Route 80. Dozens of residents appeared at a hearing a month earlier to oppose the proposal, citing security concerns.
Residents and county leaders have long complained that the state too often places sexually violent predators in East County communities.
At least four sexually violent predators now live under surveillance in Jacumba Hot Springs: Joseph Bocklet, Thomas Cornwell, Michael Poulson and Herman Smith.
California Daily Newspapers