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Meeting Jan. 30 on sex offender

In hopes of quelling neighborhood fears about a 13-year-old convicted sex offender who recently moved to the Camp Union area, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department will host a community meeting at 7 p.m. today, Jan. 30, at the Silverdale Community Center.

Detective Mike Rodrigue organized the event after Cantu Lane residents in Camp Union began daily protests of the state’s decision to locate Nicholas Stroeder there.

“I haven’t seen any protest of this nature before,” said Rodrigue, who has dealt with four other level-three sex offenders in Kitsap County.

Representatives of the state Department of Social and Health Services, the juvenile parole board and Catholic Community Services, along with Rodrigue, will attend to answer questions.

Many residents no longer feel safe going for walks or playing outdoors.

“We like to walk out here a lot,” said Heather Harnack, a 13-year-old Lake Symington resident who participated in a Saturday, Jan. 26 protest on Holly Road with her friend Stacey Record. “Those days are over. I don’t feel safe out here even when he’s under 24-hour supervision.”

Cantu Lane resident Lesa McCabe said one of her neighbors lost her child-care provider because “she refuses to come here.”

Another resident said he knows of a real estate agent who refused to list a Cantu Lane home.

“It would be a tough sell, but I would take the listing,” said Bob Guardino, a real estate agent with Windermere Realty in Silverdale and a Cantu Lane resident. “You have to disclose it and some people wouldn’t look at it at all, certainly those with young children.”

Other Camp Union residents wonder what the hullabaloo is all about.

“Everybody knows his face and he’s going to get caught if he gets out,” said a mother of four who would identify herself only as Angela. “People are overreacting.”

Earlier this month, the Seattle Children’s Home offered to place the teen in its McGraw Center, a facility specializing in 24-hour care for severely disturbed adolescents.

“When we looked at the case, we offered to take care of Nicholas,” Children’s Home President R. David Cousineau said Monday, Jan. 28. “We wanted to make sure he was safe.”

Cousineau said the child would have been placed in McGraw’s “locked facility.”

The McGraw Center is one of several facilities in the state for severely disturbed adolescents referred by the Children’s Long-term Inpatient Program of the state Mental Health Division. Each child receives 24-hour mental health and medical care.

“He (Stroeder) is a very difficult boy, but we have many children like this in our care,” Cousineau said.

According to Cousineau, state officials believe the teen doesn’t belong in a locked facility and would be better served in a foster home setting like he has now in Camp Union.

DSHS officials could not be reached for comment.

But he said the state made a good choice in selecting Catholic Community Services for Stroeder’s care.

“They are really going to help this boy,” Cousineau said. “They are an excellent organization to help children in a foster home setting.”

Cousineau said children like Stroeder are often lost in the state foster system due to a complex jumble of bureaucracy.

“It is the sickest that get lost,” Cousineau said. “The problem is there are a number of divisions in DSHS and they all have different rules.”

CCS officials reportedly told area residents during a meeting Friday, Jan. 25, that Stroeder suffers from a rare genetic disorder known as Prader-Willi Syndrome. The disorder typically causes incomplete sexual development, cognitive disabilities and behavior problems.

“I saw that in his record,” Cousineau said. “But it is a difficult diagnosis because it is based on a single missing chromosome. It still doesn’t add up to what he’s doing now.”

Stroeder’s criminal history includes burning down his grandparent’s house when he was 10 years old.

“What attracted me was the fire-setting,” Cousineau said. “He obviously has a lot of problems. This (sexual aggression) may just be what he’s exhibiting now at this time of his life.

“He needs treatment that isn’t long-term, but he needs to stabilize his life through structured treatment where he can gain more autonomy. We have to shrink this down and just parent him.”

While Cantu Lane residents don’t want Stroeder to continue to live on their street, they agree that he needs treatment — just someplace else.

One resident suggested finding 20 acres someplace in Kitsap County where the teen could go outside and not be near anyone. Another took a harsher view, saying, “ship him back to where he came from.”

“Island County shouldn’t throw their garbage out here. They should keep it where it is and take care of it,” Record said.

Some residents have even contacted their lawyers to find out what they can do.

DSHS officials said last week that the Cantu Lane home would be a permanent home for Stroeder while he remained a ward of the state.

And finding a new home would prove to be difficult.

“I don’t know if there’s a place in this state that can take care of him because of the notoriety,” Cousineau said.

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