Teen sex offender causes uproar in Camp Union

Camp Union has a a new resident, and neighbors aren’t happy about it.

Nicholas Stroeder, a 13-year-old ward of the state and convicted sex offender, moved into a foster care home on the 2000 block of Cantu Lane on Friday, Jan. 18. He was placed there after an exhaustive three-week search by the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Area residents gathered Tuesday, Jan. 22, near the intersection of Cantu Lane and Holly Road to protest the state’s decision with signs and banners. Another protest is planned for 4-6 p.m. today, Jan. 26, at the same location.

“We’re pissed this person is living on our road,” said Lesa McCabe of Camp Union. “I want him out of here. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get him out of here.”

“There’s a reason we’re out here in the toolies,” Camp Union resident Gene Klinkert said, “so we can feel our kids can grow up in peace and run through the woods and play. ... Wherever you send a poor guy like this, he’s going to get the same reception. I feel for him on that respect, but we feel we got blindsided.”

State officials reportedly tried to find a suitable facility in Island, King and Pierce counties, and even Oregon and Idaho, before reaching an agreement with Catholic Community Services to house the boy in Kitsap County.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department Detective Mike Rodrigue spent Monday, Jan. 21, informing the neighborhood about Stroeder.

“We just want people to know who he is and if they see him doing something he’s not supposed to be doing to contact the Sheriff’s Department,” Rodrigue said. “At the same time, he’s afforded the same rights as anyone else in our community.”

Rodrigue said Stroeder is one of nine level three sex offenders living in Kitsap County. Level three offenders are considered most likely to commit another sex crime and have refused treatment.

The boy was released from Echo Glen Children’s Center, a state juvenile detention center in Snoqualmie, on Dec. 31. The state categorized him as a level two offender and moved him to an Oak Harbor Child Protective Services office to be near his family.

While he was on Whidbey Island, the state paid off-duty law enforcement officers $40 an hour to guard Stroeder and take him to a facility in Everett.

The decision to upgrade Stroeder’s classification to level three was made by Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley.

“This is not just a kid who has ‘issues.’ He’s a danger to the public,” Hawley said.

The state took over Stroeder’s care when his family no longer could care for him. His mother left him in the care of his grandparents 10 years ago, according to Hawley.

DSHS provides funding for Stroeder’s treatment and care, but neither state officials nor Catholic Community Services, which is taking care of the boy, know what the cost will be.

“It will be higher than the normal cost for foster care because this child has special needs which require extra supervision,” DSHS spokesperson Kathy Spears said. “Ultimately, we have the responsibility to ensure he’s getting the services he needs.”

According to CCS spokesperson Jackie O’Ryan, Stroeder has been assigned to a therapeutic foster care family specifically trained to supervise children with complex needs. Two or three adults will be on the premises at all times, O’Ryan said.

That still doesn’t sit well with neighbors.

“This foster family is from Tacoma,” McCabe said. “They don’t even live here and (the state’s) dumped him back there.”

“What kind of credentials and qualifications do these people have that are doing the surveillance of this young man?” asked Klinkert, who lives near the until-recently vacant home. “Do they have the ability to physically stop this kid if he bolts out the front door? Can they chase him down? Nobody will tell us.”

Stroeder’s probation order requires that he he be kept under constant surveillance for the next two years.

O’Ryan said the boy will be homeschooled. His treatment plan is still being developed by a variety of groups, including law enforcement and social services.

Central Kitsap School District officials have been talking to Stroeder’s caseworkers about his education.

“He’s not enrolled in our schools,” CKSD spokesperson Jeanie Schulze said. “But we are required by state law to provide an appropriate education program for school-age kids living in our district. All of our initial conversations have suggested either homeschooling or some sort of tutoring, though no specific plans have been determined at this time.”

Schulze said Klahowya Secondary School and Green Mountain and Seabeck elementary schools have flyers available about Stroeder.

What he did

Nicholas Stroeder, 13, was convicted in July 2001 in Snohomish County Superior Court of attempting to rape a 19-year-old pregnant woman in April 2001.

But that wasn’t his first criminal act.

According to Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley, Stroeder burned down his grandparents’ home in a fit of anger by lighting his mattress on fire.

That incident forced his grandmother to turn the then 10-year-old boy over to the state foster care system.

In incidents at two different foster homes, Stroeder reportedly fondled a 7-year-old boy and sexually assaulted his 9-year-old foster sister.

The state moved Stroeder from foster home to foster home and eventually into group homes, where authorities said where he continued to behave aggressively toward children and adult females.

In the April 2001 crime, the boy, accompanied by an adult supervisor and other members of the group home where he lived, was on an outing to Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood.

According to Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department Detective Rodrigue, Stroeder left the group and hid in a women’s restroom, where he choked his victim and forced his hand under her shirt. Another woman heard the victim’s screams and pulled Stroeder away.

The boy then attempted to strike the rescuer before fleeing the scene. He was apprehended by police a short time later.

Hawley’s office reported that while in state custody for five months, Stroeder committed at least one overt sex act and proved not amiable to treatment.

Community meeting set

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office will host a community meeting on the placement of Nicholas Stroeder in a Camp Union area home. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the Silverdale Community Center.

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