Crime

Back to square one in finding home for Fresno child molester

Child molester Jeffrey Snyder, 61, has won his release from Coalinga State Hospital.
Child molester Jeffrey Snyder, 61, has won his release from Coalinga State Hospital. Fresno County District Attorney’s Office

Child molester Jeffrey Snyder, who is locked up in Coalinga State Hospital, isn’t getting out anytime soon.

Judge Gary Hoff, who ruled in March that Snyder should be released from the hospital, learned Tuesday that owners of 292 properties have rejected renting housing to Snyder.

The hearing in Fresno Superior Court comes in the wake of dozens of residents protesting the placement of Snyder in a five-bedroom, two-story home on La Paz Avenue in northwest Fresno. Residents said the home was not suitable for Snyder because it was near a school and park.

The protest prompted the owner and state Department of Hospitals to pull its application of the La Paz Avenue home, prosecutor Richard Thomas said.

Hoff said he has received 73 letters from residents opposing the placement of the 61-year-old Snyder in the La Paz Avenue home. A vast majority of the letter writers told the judge that many children live in the neighborhood and they feared Snyder would re-offend.

One letter writer said Snyder’s life would be threatened if he was released: “It is only going to be a matter of time before someone kills him.” Another writer said it was a waste of taxpayers’ dollars to house Snyder alone in such a big house. “He doesn’t need to live so close to a park being a pedophile,” the letter says. “What are you guys thinking? You must be as crazy as him.”

Only two letter writers, including one from a Fresno group that provides support to sex offenders, supported Snyder living in the La Paz home, Hoff said.

The state Department of Hospitals has a contract with Liberty Healthcare to find housing for sexually violent predators.

In hopes of finding a home for Snyder, Hoff suggested that Liberty officials should look in rural, less populated areas not close to a school or park.

The judge then scheduled a status hearing on Nov. 15. If a home is found by then, Hoff said the location of the residence will be publicized to give neighbors the chance to weigh in on whether it is a suitable place to house Snyder.

Court records say Snyder, who grew up in Fresno, began molesting boys in 1979. He molested nearly 10 of them, causing him to live most of his life behind bars. He is one of 480 sexually violent predators in California who have finished their prison sentences but are deemed so dangerous that they must remain locked up.

The law allows judges to confine sexually violent predators in state hospitals if they have a mental disorder that makes them likely to re-offend.

In March, Hoff ruled that Snyder, who has been diagnosed with paraphilia, a condition characterized by abnormal sexual desires, typically involving extreme or dangerous activities, is still a sexually violent predator. But Hoff found Snyder could be released to a home in Fresno County under strict conditions, such as 24-hour monitoring and drug testing.

Snyder, who has been in Coalinga State Hospital for 10 years, has earned his freedom because he has acknowledged his wrongdoing, shown remorse for his victims, and completed intense treatment programs for sex offenders, said Fresno attorney Curtis Sok, who represents Snyder.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts

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