A Squaw Valley mobile home on Sage Lane that was destroyed by a fire last month no longer is being considered as a home for convicted child molester Jeffrey Snyder, authorities said.
But residents of the foothill community east of Fresno still think the California Department of State Hospitals will try to put the 61-year-old Snyder in Squaw Valley.
They are planning to meet 6 p.m. Thursday at Dunlap School to voice their concerns. District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, Sheriff Margaret Mims, Supervisor Nathan Magsig and Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, have been invited to attend.
“Our concern is that when the community hears about the withdrawal of the Sage Lane property, they will conclude that this is over,” said Squaw Valley businessman Lonnie Work, who is spearheading a petition drive to keep Snyder out of Squaw Valley.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Work said.
It is essential that the judge understand that this community is in complete solidarity that no violent sexual predators be located anywhere in our community.
Squaw Valley businessman Lonnie Work
Work said he and other residents believe that Liberty Healthcare, the contractor hired by the California Department of State Hospitals to find housing for Snyder, still is trying to place Snyder in Squaw Valley. If a home is found for Snyder, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Gary Hoff has to approve the location.
“It is essential that the judge understand that this community is in complete solidarity that no violent sexual predators be located anywhere in our community,” Work said.
Ralph Montaño, spokesman for the Department of State Hospitals, said in an email Thursday that the Sage Lane property “is no longer being considered for placement of a DSH patient.”
The Department of State Hospitals has notified the court of the property owner’s decision, he said. Without giving a location, Montaño said, the department has searched other locations in Fresno County and “is prepared to present other housing options to the judge” at Snyder’s next hearing on Feb. 28.
Snyder, who grew up in Fresno, is one of 480 sexually violent predators in California who have finished their prison sentences but are considered so dangerous that they must remain locked up at Coalinga State Hospital.
In March, Snyder earned his freedom in Fresno County Superior Court when he acknowledged his wrongdoing, showed remorse for his victims and completed intense treatment programs, said Fresno defense lawyer Curtis Sok, who represents Snyder.
In his ruling, Hoff said Snyder, who has been diagnosed with abnormal sexual desires, typically involving extreme or dangerous activities, still is 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 and his family are concerned for his safety if he lives there.
Fresno defense attorney Curtis Sok
But finding a home for him has been difficult. In August last year, dozens of residents protested the potential 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. Hoff later found the La Paz Avenue home unsuitable for Snyder.
After the fire destroyed the mobile home on Sage Lane on Jan. 12, Sok said he planned to asked the owner to provide another mobile home on the Sage Lane property for Snyder.
“We are not giving up. We are not giving in to this hatred, this mob mentality,” Sok said at the time, adding that Snyder earned a second chance, and the Squaw Valley property is a perfect place for him because it is relatively isolated.
But last week, Snyder asked Liberty Healthcare to find another location for him, Sok said. “Snyder and his family are concerned for his safety if he lives there,” said Sok, who said he hasn’t been told of any new locations for Snyder.
Capt. Jeremiah Wittwer of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Thursday that the Sage Lane fire is suspicious and its cause remains undetermined. Because electricity still was going to the mobile home, the cause could be electrical, Wittwer said. But it also could be arson, he said.
Work, the Squaw Valley businessman, said the Department of State Hospitals is keeping Squaw Valley residents in the dark about what they plan to do with Snyder. But he said Squaw Valley is not the place for him because there are hundreds of children living in the area.
“I don’t care what they say, this mountain is off limits to that kind of person,” Work said.
Residents interested in learning more about the Feb. 9 meeting or joining the petition drive can call Work’s office at 559-332-2881 or go to the Facebook page called Neighborhood News 93675.