Crime

Convicted child molester was staying out of trouble in Fresno motel before his arrest

In a December 2017 file photo, convicted child molester Jeffrey Snyder leaves a Fresno courtroom after a judge ruled he can live at a motel near downtown Fresno.
In a December 2017 file photo, convicted child molester Jeffrey Snyder leaves a Fresno courtroom after a judge ruled he can live at a motel near downtown Fresno. plopez@fresnobee.com

Convicted child molester Jeffrey Snyder was doing well at the dingy El Muir Motel on G Street in Fresno, going to counseling, attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, looking for a job, and staying out of trouble.

Other than his mother, Snyder, 63, has had no visitors; the rest of his family has shunned him.

For enjoyment, he played video games.

So his arrest on Friday came as a surprise to his lawyer, Curtis Sok, who fought for more than two years to gain Snyder's freedom from the Coalinga State Hospital, where he was being held on a civil commitment as a sexually violent predator.

Fresno police arrested Snyder on a civil warrant obtained by Liberty Healthcare, which has a contract with the California Department of State Hospitals to find homes for sexually violent predators and supervise them.

Liberty Healthcare and the California Department of State Hospitals can't comment about Snyder or any other sexually violent predator because they are considered patients and their information is confidential.

But Fresno police Sgt. Israel Reyes said Snyder did not commit a sexual assault and public safety was not at issue.

Sok declined to comment Tuesday, saying Liberty HealthCare has not sent him a report that gives details of Snyder's alleged violation of his release. Once a report is written, a hearing will be held to determine whether the violation is legitimate, Sok said.

Court records say Snyder, who grew up in Fresno, began molesting boys, nearly 10 of them, starting in 1979. He has lived most of his life in prison.

Snyder has lived at Coalinga State Hospital since 2006 because judges may order civil commitments for sexually violent predators who have finished their prison sentence but are deemed too dangerous to be free because they are likely to re-offend.

Snyder, however, earned his freedom in March 2016 during a Fresno Superior Court hearing when he acknowledged his wrongdoing and showed remorse for his victims. He had also completed intensive treatment programs.

In his ruling back then, Judge Gary Hoff said Snyder, who has been diagnosed with abnormal sexual desires, was still a sexually violent predator but could be released to a house, apartment or motel under strict conditions.

Currently there are 13 sexually violent predators in the state's conditional release program, but none now in Fresno, Madera or Tulare counties, said Ralph Montano, a spokesman for the California Department of State Hospitals.

After winning his freedom in court, Snyder was released from the Coalinga State Hospital in June 2017. After living in a series of motels, El Muir Motel became his permanent residence in December.

His release was a hot-button issue in Fresno County because of concerns that he would re-offend.

He originally was supposed to live in a home in northwest Fresno, but neighbors protested and the owner declined to rent to him.

He was then scheduled to live in Squaw Valley, but residents opposed the move and the home eventually burned down in January 2017.

According to court records, Snyder signed a 16-page agreement in June 2017 that specified terms of his release. The terms include staying away from alcohol and drugs and not associating with anyone involved in criminal activity or "deviant sexual behavior."

Sources say Snyder engaged in a sexual act with another man without permission, an apparent violation because a term of his release says he must tell Liberty Healthcare staff about "all significant personal relationships."

Court records say Snyder is a homosexual, the product of a broken home and an alcoholic father. He also "has an extensive history of sexual activity during childhood," a report by Liberty Healthcare says.

The report was written on Jan. 26 this year and reviewed by Hoff on Feb 9. It says Snyder had committed minor violations for waving at a minor from his motel room and making sexual comments about young boys, but did nothing to violate terms of his release.

The report says Snyder has an education level of sixth grade.

He joined the Army at age 19 but was discharged after a few months "due to his inability to adjust to military life," the report says. He then worked construction jobs such as plastering and lathing.

He was first incarcerated at the age of 21, when he entered a neighbor's home through a doggie door and stole a pistol.

Over the years, he was arrested for exposing himself to minors, committing lewd acts with children, and making obscene phone calls.

But while at El Muir Motel, he has attended individual and group counseling and Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous classes, submitted to random searches by Liberty Healthcare staff, registered as a sex offender with the Fresno Police Department, passed two polygraph exams, and passed random drug and alcohol testing.

"To date, no evidence of contraband or other violations have been noted," the report says.

Overall, the report says, Snyder's compliance with his release was satisfactory. "He has made progress in his ability to manage his anger, and after being confronted by (staff) we have not heard any more inappropriate sexual comments regarding minors," the report says.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts
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