Convicted Rapist Arrested Tying Up 6 Female UW Students in Their Home Was Allegedly “Low Risk”

“On 3/5/12, at approximately 3:30 a.m.,” goes the understated police blotter report, “officers responded to a house in the 5000 block of 20 Av[enue] NE to a report of a burglary in progress.”

What they found was something a little different than the already upsetting prospect of a home invasion. The man they booked into jail would turn out to be a convicted rapist, and he would be charged with “Burglary, Robbery, Attempted Rape, Unlawful Imprisonment and Kidnapping.”

On The Stranger‘s Slog, Cienna Madrid skipped understatement and titled the incident “Every Woman’s Nightmare” (packaging it with a story about a convicted stalker who’s still stalking women downtown). When you read the description of how events progressed, it sounds like a horrific crime was barely averted, thanks to one of the young women calling 911 successfully (two others dialed but couldn’t get through in time). Here is the summary:

The man then had the six women, all aged 19-21, lie on the floor on their stomachs so he could bind their hands with tape. When he ran out of tape, he tore a lamp cord from the wall as sparks flew, and used the cord to tie up the rest of the women, the victim said. At one point, the man forced a woman to take off her clothes, police said.

35-year-old Robert D. Hitt, after serving 10 years for a rape in 2001, was released in January 2012. He was classified as a low-risk to reoffend by the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board but was also “under lifelong supervision by the state Department of Corrections (DOC),” reports the Seattle Times. Given this most recent arrest, neither of those two statements seems to carry the accuracy you’d demand when a Level 2 sex offender is released back into society. It feels particularly damning to learn that he had just completed subsequent sex-offender treatment program last Thursday.

In March of last year, I wrote a post titled–I hoped alarmingly–“After PALS: Mentally Ill with History of Arson, Murder & Sex Offenses Return to King County.” It was about how the Washington State Legislature was consistently defunding programs that kept dangerous offenders out of the community. Trying to get readers worked up, I wrote:

Are you upset? Are you angry that legislative “austerity” takes precedence over your safety? Then sit down and count to ten, because the reason PALS is closed is this: Its budget was cut until it became too expensive to run, and then it was shuttered.

I can’t say anything about this particular case, and why Hitt was determined to be “low risk,” but budgetary pressures are likely to play a role in general strategies of incarceration and release to the community. If you have no middle ground between prison and the over-promise of “lifelong supervision,” you will continue to read stories like these. (A Seattle Times editorial cheers Senate budget cuts “principally to social programs,” raising again the question of whether they read their own paper’s news, and can connect dots.)

Judging from the comments sections, some Seattle residents would like simply to execute sex offenders, rather than pay for programs like PALS, which used to keep us safer without needing to become murderers ourselves. That sounds like a different kind of nightmare.