Crime

Convicted sex predator Jeffrey Snyder ordered back to state hospital in Coalinga

'The best of a bad situation:' Sexual predator gets a new home in Fresno

Rick Thomas, a Fresno County prosecutor, talks about a motel near downtown Fresno that has been chosen at the residence for convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Snyder.
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Rick Thomas, a Fresno County prosecutor, talks about a motel near downtown Fresno that has been chosen at the residence for convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Snyder.

Convicted child molester Jeffrey Snyder, who was arrested last month at a Fresno motel, was ordered Wednesday to be returned to the state hospital in Coalinga for sexually violent predators.

In his ruling, Fresno Superior Court Judge Gary Hoff said Snyder violated terms of his conditional release when he failed to tell his supervisor that he was having a sexual relationship with a 68-year-old male sex offender at his court-designated home, El Muir Motel on G Street near downtown.

By not telling his supervisors, Hoff ruled that Snyder intentionally deceived them, making him untrustworthy and a threat to public safety.

Snyder, 63, did not attend Wednesday's hearing; he waived his right to be there. His lawyer, Curtis Sok, told Hoff that Snyder acknowledged his mistake, but said Snyder did not know the other man was a registered sex offender.

But Hoff said Snyder should have known the man was a registered sex offender, and he should have reported his sexual relationship to his supervisors.

Snyder now must remain in the Coalinga State Hospital at least a year before he can petition the court to seek his release, 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.

Since 2006, he has been at Coalinga State Hospital because judges may order civil commitments for sexually violent predators who have finished their prison sentence but are deemed too dangerous to be free since 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 then, 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.

His release, however, became a hot-button issue 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 there opposed the move and the home was burned down in January 2017.

In June 2017, Snyder was released from Coalinga State Hospital to live in a series of Fresno motels. El Muir Motel on G Street became his permanent residence in December. The motel mainly houses convicted sex offenders and felons.

Liberty Healthcare has a contract with the California Department of State Hospitals to supervise sexually violent predators on conditional release programs. 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."

Before Snyder's arrest on March 16, he had been following conditions of his release by going to counseling, attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, looking for a job, and staying out of trouble, according to a Liberty Healthcare report dated Jan. 26.

But after the report was written, Liberty Healthcare official Timothy Fletcher testified at Wednesday's hearing that Snyder had made numerous violations.

Fletcher testified that staff had overhead Snyder's acquaintances at Coalinga State Hospital talk about a former patient having sex at a motel. Initially, staff did not know they were talking about Snyder, Fletcher said.

Fletcher said that when he confronted Snyder, he admitted to having oral sex with a man inside Snyder's motel room once in January and twice in February. Fletcher testified that Snyder told him he did not know the man was a registered sex offender.

Fletcher said Snyder told him the man's name was Gary. When Gary's name wasn't found in the sex offender database, Fletcher said he confronted Snyder again. This time, Snyder told him the man's name was Terry, who was in the sex offender database, Fletcher testified.

Fletcher said Snyder has caused other concerns by making comments about young men.

In one incident, Snyder went to a therapy session in San Luis Obispo. During a break, Snyder asked his supervisor if he could sit somewhere else, saying "there wasn't enough eye candy here."

Another time, Snyder saw a high school-age boy and said "he has a cute butt," according to Fletcher's testimony. Snyder also commented about a group of boys, saying "they might look a lot cuter with no clothes on," Fletcher told the judge.

Sok, however, said Snyder is encouraged to talk about his feelings during therapy sessions. His only mistake was telling his thoughts to a Liberty Healthcare supervisor instead of his therapist, Sok said.

Sok said Snyder never acted on his thoughts and quit making them once Liberty Healthcare staff warned him. Sok also said Snyder suffers from a mental illness and pedophilia, an abnormal sexual attraction children, so "he's never going to escape temptation."

But prosecutor Richard Thomas told Hoff that Snyder's decision to deceive his supervisors about his sexual relationship "is a big red flag." It shows he is not ready to be released from the hospital, Thomas argued.

In his final summation, Hoff said Snyder didn't violate his release by commenting about young men, since he was encouraged by his therapist to express such feelings. He also did not violate his release by being angry at Liberty Healthcare staff for restricting his movements.

But his failure to disclose "a significant relationship" does violate terms of his release, Hoff said. Though it was a consensual relationship between two adults, Snyder "intended to deceive and hid the relationship," the judge said.

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