More than three dozen South Whidbey residents attended an information meeting Monday evening with law enforcement to learn about the recent placement of a Level 3 sex offender in Langley.
Many expressed fear and frustration that Jared A. Vandewerfhorst is now living on the 4300 block of Douglas Street, which they described as full of young families with children.
Vandewerfhorst, 37, has a criminal history that includes the kidnapping of a 11-year-old boy and possession of child pornography. He must register with the sheriff’s office as a sex offender for life and is considered to be a Level 3 offender, which means he’s considered a high risk to re-offend.
Vandewerfhorst was convicted of possession of child pornography in federal court and served 11 years of his 14-year sentence, said Detective Sgt. Laura Price. He is a ward of the federal court system, which decides his post-prison placement and monitors his activity. Following his prison release, he was placed at the Pioneer Fellowship House in downtown Seattle.
He’s now living in the Douglas Street home with his mother, Price said.
Many objected to the placement.
“I live on Douglas Street,” one woman said. “No one came around and asked us. It’s full of kids. I probably have five bicycles at the end of my driveway every day.”
Like many in the audience, she didn’t give her name.
“We’ve had more and more families move in the past year than ever before. I’ve got grandchildren and now they’re not safe.”
Price told residents Vandewerfhorst is effectively under house arrest by the federal Bureau of Prisons.
“They decide where he can go and where he can’t go,” she said. “GPS monitors his movements 24 hours a day. He’s not allowed to have a cell phone or access the internet.”
Price said federal authorities didn’t check with Island County Sheriff’s Office before placing Vandewerfhorst in the Langley neighborhood. She said she complained about the lack of notice given to local authorities about the release of Vandewerfhorst.
“He’s been on our radar for a long time,” she said.
The sheriff’s office held a meeting about Vandewerfhorst in 2005, after he was released from state prison and moved to Monroe Landing Road. At that time, a Department of Corrections officer said Vandewerfhorst had a long history of violating the conditions of his release.
Currently, there are 125 registered sex offenders living in Island County, Price said. Three are categorized as Level 3, seven are Level 2 and the rest are Level 1 offenders.
Besides Langley, Level 3 offenders live in Clinton and Coupeville.
Island County Sheriff Mark Brown encouraged citizens to check the sheriff’s office website for any addresses where they or their family members spend time. The mapping and address feature found on the website pinpoints exactly where an offender lives.
Price was unable to answer some detailed questions about Vandewerfhorst’s situation, mainly because of the lack of communication from the federal side. Both Brown and Price encouraged residents to sign up for sex offender notifications and have neighborhood meetings.
“They know they’re being watched by every one of you,” Brown said. “We can’t dictate where they can live but we can certainly empower ourselves.”
If residents see Vandewerfhorst some place where they think he shouldn’t be, Brown said to call 911.
State Rep. Norma Smith, who lives in Clinton, attended the 90-minute gathering at Langley United Methodist Church.
“It was a good community meeting. I’m glad so many people turned out,” she said.
Patricia Stordahl, who lives in the Baby Island Community, said she wanted to learn more about the situation because a school bus picks up and drops off kids in her neighborhood.
“I just wish it had been better attended by the young parents,” she commented about the meeting.
— Sex Offender Watch List, click on Sex Offender Information at www.islandcountywa.gov/sheriff