Eureka neighbors react to possible release of sexual predator

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EUREKA, Calif. (KIEM) – Neighbors are speaking out against a possible decision to place a convicted sexually violent predator into the Howard Heights Road area in Eureka.

Joshua Cooley has a history of sexual crimes in Eureka, and has been kept at the Coalinga State Hopsital Mental Facility since those crimes took place.

Sheriff William Honsal shared issues with this proposed placement, writing in a statement on Wednesday:

“As the Sheriff of Humboldt County, one of my primary functions is to protect the community from violent predators. The citizens deserve the protection of the judicial branch of government to also weigh the rights of a convicted felon vs the best interest of a law abiding community.

Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Joshua Cooley is someone that threatens the safety and security of this community. I am in full support of District Attorney Maggie Fleming’s ongoing efforts to prevent SVP Cooley’s release into this community. This is based on the fact that Cooley has been determined by multiple qualified SVP examiners that he is likely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior if he was released into any community. Do we want a person released into our community who has a pattern of behavior such as harassing young children, breaking into houses, threatening to kill teenagers, giving minor girls alcohol and then taking them back to a location where he can take advantage of them sexually, and violently gang raping them? Not only that, but this predator has a history of not being compliant with his terms of conditional release including his refusal to attend a sexual offender’s course.

The sexual offenders now a days don’t have to go to parks or drive around in vans looking for persons to victimize. They can sit on their computers or personal communication devices in their own home and lure their victims to them or they will victimize them over the internet. You can try and restrict this access; however, these sexual offenders find a way. The desired placement location, Howard Heights Road, is not the right location to place such a sexually violent predator.

Not only are there schools and parks in close proximity, but there are many families that have children that play outside in this rural community. This area has a lot of forest and open private land that a sexual offender can watch others, meet victims, hide or stash items, or run from the authorities. Also, a GPS monitor doesn’t work the best in heavily forested areas. This rural area also can experience winter weather conditions that make the road impassible to Law Enforcement or first responders.

Everything about releasing this Sexually Violent Predator into the Howard Heights area is wrong. A SVP should be at a location where authorities can easily check up on him. The location would also be conducive to a GPS ankle monitoring system that would work flawlessly without interference. They should be placed at a location where they can’t easily hide and when Law Enforcement is called, the response time would be immediate. The California citizens who passed the sex offender laws expect the executive and judicial branches of government to protect them from Sexual Violent Predators. The constitutional rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of  Happiness of those in the Freshwater area will be severely infringed upon if the predator is allowed to live in this rural area.

Please reconsider the plan to move this SVP to Howard Heights. The people of Humboldt County have placed their trust in the District Attorney and the Sheriff to protect them from those who violate the law. We cannot allow a Sexually Violent Predator who has a history of noncompliance with state laws and post prison release conditions back into this community.

Thank you for putting the people first.
Respectfully,
William F. Honsal III
Humboldt County Sheriff”

Neighbors in the Howard Heights are sharing similar sentiments, due to the flooding and forested area, they worry law enforcement could not respond in a timely manner.

One resident, Nicole Riggs, had this to say:

“This placement is completely inappropriate on a small dead-end residential street that is very dark at night. Thirteen kids live within 1 mile of the proposed placement of this child rapist who has violated parole 5 times and repeatedly refused sex offender treatment. 

Note especially that law enforcement response time is excessive. Howard Heights floods every rainy season, sometimes up to 12 times a year. Flooded means the field turns into a river 100 feet wide and more than 4 feet deep, with a strong current. If Mr. Cooley is placed there and assaults as he has done repeatedly in the past, and emergency personnel cannot reach Howard Heights for up to 2 days, what are we supposed to do?”

On Thursday, a hearing on the matter is scheduled for community members to share their opinions. Each speaker will be allotted 5 minutes.

When: Thursday, August 23, at 8:30AM

Where:  Humboldt County Court Department 4