Serial rapist moves to Tacoma

A serial rapist who terrorized Oak Harbor in the early 1990s has moved to Tacoma.

It appears doubtful that Paul Harell will return to Island County anytime soon because of the lack of treatment facilities and housing options, according to court documents.

The state Attorney General’s Office recently agreed to release Harell to a community-based “less-restrictive alternative,” which is housing outside of a secure facility. This will be the second time Harell has been released to community housing; his release was revoked last time after multiple violations.

The long and complicated case goes back to December of 1992, when Harell was a Navy man stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Harell broke into women’s homes and raped them at knife point. His last victim was a 17-year-old Oak Harbor girl. He was caught when he left his wallet behind after the victim’s sister attacked him with a fireplace poker.

Court papers document that Harell raped or sexually assaulted four women and two teenage girls by the time he was 22 years old.

Harell was convicted in Island County Superior Court in 1993 of rape in the first degree and two counts of second-degree rape with forcible compulsion. He was sentenced to just over 16 years in prison.

After Harell finished his sentence, the state Attorney General’s Office moved to have him civilly committed under the state’s sexually violent predator statute. The goal of the law is to protect the public from sex offenders who have completed their sentences but are considered to have a mental disorder that makes them likely to commit predatory acts of sexual violence.

Those who are committed to the Special Commitment Center at McNeil Island receive treatment until the court determines that they are ready for placement in a supervised residence.

After two years of court hearings, Harell’s attorneys and the Attorney General’s Office reached a compromise in which he stipulated to being a sexually violent predator, but the state agreed that he should be released to community housing, specifically the Marysville Mack House.

The community-based housing came with strict conditions, including GPS monitoring, treatment and drug and alcohol testing.

The following year, however, the transition team reviewed a series of violations that Harell committed, which involved possession of a restricted video games and a GPS violation. He was sent to McNeil Island.

In 2014, Harell was conditionally released to the Secure Community Transition Facility in King County, a six-bed, locked facility run by the state. He petitioned for both conditional and unconditional release. The Attorney General’s Office opposed his motions.

Last October, a jury in Island County Superior Court found that Harell is still a sexually violent predator, which means he cannot be released without conditions. He was sent back to the King County facility.

A trial on Harell’s conditional release was originally set for this month. But then the state’s expert witness, forensic psychologist Harry Goldberg, concluded that a less-restrictive alternative was in Harell’s best interest and that conditions could be imposed to adequately protect the community.

As a result, the state agreed to the alternative and Harell was allowed to move to a home in Tacoma.

The conditions of Harell’s release are described in a 22-page document. Among the conditions, Harell must register as a sex offender, is not allowed to leave unless a trip is pre-approved by the court or transition team, must wear a GPS device outside the home and must participate in treatment.

Assistant Attorney General Fred Wist said about 45 people deemed “sexually violent predators” living in less-restrictive alternative housing, 17 of which are in community-based homes.

“His case is not unique,” he said of Harell. “We see people violate conditions and sort of go back and forth sometimes.”

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