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Community, officials rally to stop child molesters being released near Turlock
Alvarado-Gil, Alanis work for better laws regarding sex offenders
SVP protest 1
Turlock resident Candace Gonsalves protests the potential release of two sexually violent predators into the community on Friday along North Central Avenue in Turlock (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

Stanislaus County District Attorney Jeff Laugero said Friday that he’s confident the decision to release two sexually violent predators into the Turlock community will be reversed when the issue comes before a judge next month.

Laugero, along with Turlock Police Chief Jason Hedden; state Sen. Marie Alvarado-Gil (D-Jackson); Sheriff’s Detective Raj Singh; District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa, and others, were on hand for a joint press conference at the Turlock Safety Center to address the potential release of sexually violent predators Kevin Scott Gray, 72, and Timothy Roger Weathers, 61.

The convicted child molesters, who were sent to prison for crimes committed more than 30 years ago, are currently being held by the Department of State Hospitals in Coalinga. They are slated to be released into a residence at 400 N. Central Ave., just about three miles west of the Turlock city limit.

Gray will be back in court July 1 to determine whether the North Central Avenue address is suitable, and to see if the judge will allow a hearing for a motion to rescind his release. Weathers will be in court July 3 for a site-suitability hearing.

Speaking before a phalanx of television cameras, Laugero mentioned a site-assessment report conducted by Liberty Healthcare, which, according to court documents, advocated for the release of Gray and Weathers.

“I asked our bureau of investigations to conduct our own investigation and conduct our own site assessment,” said Laugero. “As a result, several disqualifying factors were quickly identified simply by talking to the neighbors, something Liberty Healthcare apparently did not do.

SVP press conference
Turlock Chief of Police Jason Hedden addresses the media at a press conference regarding the potential release two sexually violent predators into the community on Friday at the Turlock Safety Center in Turlock, Calif. Behind Hedden, from left, are Supervisor Vito Chiesa, Sheriff’s Detective Raj Singh, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, Without Permission CEO Troy Stein, state Sen. Marie Alvarado-Gil, and Stanislaus County District Attorney Jeff Laugero (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

“Based on these facts, we believe the release of any SVP to this location would violate the law and we have made Liberty Healthcare aware of this disqualifying information.”

One of the factors mentioned by Laugero is a nearby home-school located within 100 feet of the residence. State law dictates that a school cannot be within one-quarter mile of the proposed residence. Earlier this year, when Gray was set to be released into neighboring Merced County, a nearby home-school there led to Stanislaus County Judge Carrie M. Stephens rescinding Gray’s release.

Laugero acknowledged that at some point in time, the convicted child molesters will have to be released.

“It is kicking the can down the road because for the SVP program to be constitutional, there has to be the ability, the chance that somebody might actually be cured and released from the program,” said Laugero. “If we are going to kick that can down the road, we always want public safety to be the paramount consideration before  (saying) ‘It’s in the best interest of the patient because this might help his treatment if he’s out in the community.’ Well, that has to be balanced with public safety. Public safety always has to be No. 1.”

Hedden said that having an SVP released into the community puts added pressure on local law enforcement agencies.

“We worry about these people walking among us,” said Hedden. “We’ve done a number of prevention-related acts to target predators who are going after children in our community; the police department and sheriff’s department has had tremendous success with that.”

Alvardo-Gil, who has spoken openly about being a survivor of sexual abuse, believes that tougher laws are necessary and said the responsibility rests with her office.

“As your elected representative and voice in Sacramento, I am owning the brokenness of the system … but am also confronting this head-on,” the senator said. “Let be me clear, as a mother, grandmother and survivor: Violent predators will not be released in the 13 counties that I represent. Not on my watch.”

According to a report by Jeannie Nguyen for ABC affiliate KXTV-10 in Sacramento, Liberty Healthcare contracts with the state to oversee SVP treatment and rehabilitation. California is paying Liberty $22 million over two years for the service. The cost for one SVP per year was more than $450,000 in 2023. 

“As of December 2023, the state says there were 572 SVP patients with another 380 patients with probable cause to be labeled as an SVP,” Nguyen reported.

Alvarado-Gil put Liberty Healthcare squarely in her cross-hairs.

“This is a dangerous situation allowing Liberty Health, for decades now, to make these decisions about sexually-violent-predator placement,” said Alvarado-Gil. “They made the decision, they selected the location and they entered into a lease agreement, all without having conversations with the neighbors in the community. The law is very specific in terms of notification, but there’s a moral obligation there.”

Along with state Sen. Minority Leader Brian W. Jones, Alvarado-Gil, is co-sponsoring legislation that bolsters the state’s responsibility to monitor sexually violent predators after their release. Jones said he’s optimistic that his legislation will become law.

“The Senate public safety committee had been the sticking point,” said Jones. “It passed unanimously off floor of the Senate, so that gives it great momentum heading into the Assembly.”

Assemblymember Juan Alanis (R-Modesto) is vice-chair of the public safety committee.

“We need more transparency and reform round the SVP statute,” said Alanis. “This is why I authored AB 1954, which increases critical public awareness and transparency when determining the circumstances around placement of an SVP. And it’s why I have co-authored important improvements around SVP laws, like Sen. Jones’ and Sen. Alvarado-Gil’s SB 1074.”

Earlier on Friday, a protest was organized along North Central Avenue in front of the proposed residence. About three dozen local residents carried signs, many of which asked drivers to honk if they were against SVPs being released into the community. The picketers moved to downtown Turlock in time for the press conference, and they could be heard cheering from outside after the remarks made by Alvarado-Gil, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, and Troy Stein, the CEO of Without Permission, a local non-profit that serves victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.

“There is, perhaps, no greater injustice than to permit freedom to individuals that freely admit they will strike again, attacking the most vulnerable of our society: our children and grandchildren,” said Stein. 

Warnke, known for his straightforward manner and fiery rhetoric, didn’t mince words when it was his turn at the podium.
“In January of this year we had to deal with same piece-of-crap human being you all have been talking about,” said Warnke, referring to Gray. “Folks, I can guarantee you this: In the 45 years that I’ve been wearing a badge, nobody that’s been in the condition that these two predators are, will ever be healed. There’s no medicine, there’s no counseling, and there’s no will on their part to be healed.”

Gray has admitted to molesting 25 children and having committed 1,000 acts of indecent exposure against female victims between the ages of 8 and 11, court documents show. Weathers told state doctors that he had molested between 20 to 45 boys.