A life still in limbo
Convicted sexual predator Cary Verse has found job and is making friends since being ordered to Bay Point
By Bruce Gerstman
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
BAY POINT - Cary Verse could see his own breath on the cold January morning he arrived at the Sheriff's Office.
His meeting with a detective for his quarterly registration as a sex offender lasted less than five minutes. Verse, 35, gave his thumbprint and confirmed he was still living at the same Bay Point home.
"Still working at the same place?" Contra Costa County Sheriff's Detective Matthew Harris asked.
"Yeah, but more hours," said Verse, who has been convicted of sexually assaulting three boys and a man.
Working more hours at a rug-cleaning business is one of the changes in Verse's life since last year, when he moved to Bay Point. The town is his first permanent home since February 2004, when he left a treatment program for sexual predators at Atascadero State Hospital. If Verse breaks the rules of his conditional release -- by taking the wrong route to work or arriving home too late from bowling -- he goes back into custody.
A judge's order in February 2005 placed Verse in Bay Point, sparking protests and community meetings against his move. The Times has followed Verse, documenting how he has established a relatively monotonous life as he gains new rights. He now owns a car. He can stay out later.
A judge will decide this month whether he can use the Internet with software that monitors where he surfs.
"There's a lot of jobs I can't get because I don't have access to the Internet," he said.
He's made more friends, mostly through his Jehovah's Witness congregation. He's made more money, now working as a supervisor at the rug-cleaning company.
And he's looking for a soul mate -- Verse wants to marry a woman and have children.
By the end of March, he will go before a judge for an annual review of his progress. He will remain on the program until the judge feels he is ready to leave it.
Verse could argue at the review that he is ready now to leave the program and live an unrestricted life -- to no longer lug around a dictionary-size global positioning system machine; to no longer tell a supervisor in Sacramento exactly where he is and with whom; to no longer request permission to ride in the same car with another man.
Verse dislikes the limitations and hopes that someday he'll be independent. But he doesn't want to leave the program right now.
Verse says he needs to maintain his status as a state mental health patient so the state will continue paying his expenses. While he pays for utilities and food and will begin paying half his rent this month, he needs the state to cover monthly costs such as medications and therapy so he can save money in hopes of becoming financially independent.
"The things I look at losing," Verse said in his living room, his electronic ankle bracelet resting at the top of his shoe, "those are the things that stop anybody from getting in trouble."
Religion an outlet
Verse talks fast, filling almost every possible gap in the conversation with a word. It's a nervous but friendly energy.
He works as many hours as his boss gives him. Some of his free time is spent bowling, but he mostly joins prayer meetings at the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall in Bay Point. Since the state prohibits him from knocking on doors to preach with other Jehovah's Witnesses on weekends, he makes telephone calls from the Hall.
Verse and Jill Ellison, a friend from the congregation, were cleaning and landscaping at her Bay Point home last month before a party she was throwing for the women in their organization.
"I thought I could do some trimming," Ellison told Verse. "And you could do some lifting."
Verse makes extra cash shoveling and planting in Ellison's back yard. She met Verse when he moved to town and introduced himself to the congregation.
"I didn't know a lot of the details," she said, sweeping the concrete. "I said, 'Well, you know, if the elders think he is spiritually honest, then you give him a chance and act with caution.'"
"If I had had young children, I probably wouldn't have had him over."
Verse was convicted of adult charges of assaulting four males from 1988 to 1992. He assaulted a 14-year-old when he was 17, a 17-year-old when he was 18, another 14-year-old when he was 19 and a 23-year-old when he was 21.
Verse's closest friends and congregation members, Marlin Town, 21, and his wife April, 19, bring their 1-year-old daughter, Kalie, with them whenever they spend time with Verse. Both said it never concerned them at all.
"He's just another brother," April Town said.
Marlin Town is a roofer preparing for college, and his wife is a full-time mother. They say they don't read newspapers much and saw Verse for the first time when he came to the congregation.
"When I first heard about him coming, I went up to him to make him feel welcome," April Town said, juggling Kalie. "That's how it is in our congregation."
Marlin Town added, "Everybody's done something. It's hard for anyone to hold grudges."
The Kingdom Hall is also where Verse intends to find his wife. With his focus on religion, he is determined not to act on his sexual feelings for men.
"The homosexual part of my life is nonexistent," Verse said. "A girl I get involved with will have to be very open. I'm going to be attracted to guys forever, and she needs to understand that."
Staying on the program
Verse is one of more than 500 parolees placed by judges in the Sexual Offender Commitment Program at Atascadero and Coalinga state hospitals since the program began in 1996. The department has 12 patients who are being considered for the conditional release program that Verse lives under.
Fewer than 20 percent of the parolees admit they have a problem or are willing to participate, preferring to fight in court for their release, said Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman for the Department of Mental Health. But Verse took advantage of the program. He was the third graduate and has followed all the rules since his release.
"He's been very cooperative," Macintyre said of Verse, who sought homes in four other Northern California cities before a judge ordered him to live in Bay Point. "If we had seen anything to cause concern, we'd be the first ones to pull him out."
About 53 percent of all California parolees reoffend during their first two years out of custody, according to the California Department of Corrections. Verse has not become one of them since his release two years ago.
Many neighbors don't care that he's cooperated with his conditions. Helene Schwarzenberger, a Bay Point resident and member of the Municipal Advisory Committee, wonders what will happen when the state no longer monitors Verse.
"My concern was not what he would do while being supervised but what he would do after supervision," she said.
Melody Chapman, who can see Verse's home from hers across the street, feels the same now as she did a year ago.
"Do we feel safer now? I don't think so," Chapman said while taking a break from home-schooling two of her four children. "Just because he's lived here a year and things have gone smoothly doesn't mean things will continue to go well in the future."
Chapman, like several Bay Point residents who spoke to the Times, remains angry. While few have anything negative to say about Verse himself, all say they feel his placement brought to light how Bay Point, which is unincorporated, has no formal way to keep out sex offenders.
They also resent Verse's landlords, Anthony Ashe and Araceli Ramirez, for volunteering their cottage.
"He never would have come to Bay Point except for the do-gooders who brought him here," said resident Gloria Magleby.
Ashe and Ramirez offered their cottage under their belief that most convicted felons want to change their lives once they leave prison, Ashe said.
The couple has Verse over for dinner sometimes. They hire him to do odd jobs around the office.
"It was one of the most rewarding decisions we ever made," Ashe said. "Fortunately, I have come to know the man and realize he's not a danger."
Macintyre would not say whether her agency will recommend that Verse stay monitored for the next year, but she suggested it will.
"We've seen no problems with Mr. Verse since he entered community treatment. And as a general rule, the department believes that those in (his program) should remain there for at least several years, assuming they're doing well."
Verse stays in touch with friends he made while in custody at the hospital. He had just finished a phone call with one friend a few weeks ago when he reflected on how his restrictions are both a burden and a necessity.
"If I make a change, I have to call (in) and say I was planning to go to McDonald's but decided to go to Burger King instead," he said.
But he acknowledges the goal is for him to have a stable life.
"Everybody is helping me by making sure I don't start falling down or let depression overtake my existence," he said.
Reach Bruce Gerstman at 925-952-2670 or by e-mail at [email protected].
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