Pair of sex offenders upset after reclassification
RICHLAND, Wash. -- Jerry Hill and Mary Ann Jennings moved to Richland three weeks ago from Sunnyside. They say for the last ten years they've been classified as level one sex offenders, and have stayed out of trouble, complying with the laws applicable to them.
But on Monday, they found out they are now considered level three offenders, the most dangerous classification, considered at high risk to re-offend.
"Its terrifying, I'm scared for my life," Hill said. Hill's girlfriend for the last ten years is also upset. "We got an eviction notice, verbally from our landlord. The community here in Richland, on our block, don't want us here," Jennings said.
The couple met online after getting out of prison for separate crimes in 2002. Both have convictions for sex crimes against children, but both have been labeled as level one sex offenders for the last ten years, living in Yakima and Sunnyside. Hill is on social security and Jennings in on disability, both completed treatment for their crimes as well.
Monday, however, that all changed. "On Monday, the Richland Police Department showed up and said they reclassified us as a level three because of the nature of the crime and because I'm new to the area," Hill said.
Captain Mike Cobb with the Richland Police Department says these things change each time a sex offender moves, and the classification process starts all over.
"I can't tell why they were classified as they were, I can't speak for another county. The process in Benton County is when someone comes into the area, an assessment is conducted by the officer who is going to be tasked with monitoring them. After the assessment is complete, a presentation is made to the sex offender review committee," Cobb said.
The review committee is made up of members from Kennewick, Richland, Prosser, and West Richland Police Departments, as well as the Sheriff's Office. It also includes representatives from the Department of Corrections, the Prosecutor's Office and SARC.
They meet once a month or as needed to review new offenders moving to the area. Then the recommendation they make goes to the officer in charge of assessing them, who has the ultimate decision. The classification is based on how big of a threat they are to the community and if there are aggravated circumstances. In this case, the officer thought the two living together posed a big threat to the community.
The couple's 23 year old daughter Angela however, does not see it that way.
"This has been broadcasted all over the Tri-Cities. We have nowhere to go and I've been homeless before. I've slept in a car and I'm scared because I don't want that to happen again," she said.
Cobb said once you get classified at a certain level, there is no way to change it.
Friday, May 24 2013 9:32 PM EDT2013-05-25 01:32:22 GMT
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