4 years after approval for release, search to find Santa Cruz County housing for sexually violent predator continues

SANTA CRUZ, CA — Authorities revealed Tuesday that state contracted officials who have spent nearly four years unsuccessfully looking for local housing opportunities for a convicted rapist were limiting themselves to locations at least a mile from any school or beach.

“That’s quite a set-off,” defense attorney Stephen Prekoski said of the geographical constraints.

After more than four decades in prison and treatment, Prekoski’s client, 71-year-old Michael Cheek, was found eligible for monitored community release. Cheek’s release is subject to specific state mandates concerning “sexually violent predators.”

Unless the court finds extraordinary circumstances, a group of officials signed up to Cheek’s personal housing committee are limited to looking for a home within Santa Cruz County, which is considered Cheek’s primary residence.

Cheek’s lengthy wait to be placed in housing since he was deemed eligible for release, according to Prekoski, may be considered a sufficient extraordinary circumstance.

Cheek complained about his lack of housing options while speaking from a state hospital via a court Zoom video link.

“I keep getting paraded out to a public whipping post every 30-60 days,” Cheek explained.

Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Syda Cogliati read from a state-provided report that 96 rental properties were considered for Cheek last month, of which 46 were considered to comply with placement statutes. According to officials, none of the 46 eligible landlords were willing to rent to Cheek.

According to a doctor from State Hospitals’ contractor Liberty Health, the distance from the coast was chosen to avoid potential triggers to Cheek’s effective outpatient treatment. In 1980, Cheek kidnapped and raped a woman he met at Seabright State Beach.

Attempts to obtain a finding of “extraordinary circumstances,” which would allow state officials to look for housing outside of Santa Cruz County, have stalled since Cheek’s last hearing. Cheek stated that his children and grandchildren did not know him after a 43-year incarceration and did not want to become public targets.

Prekoski informed the court that the family had requested that their case be dismissed. He referred to Butte County efforts to persuade Cheek’s sister not to accept her brother. Her home, which was once considered as a housing option, later burned down, removing it from consideration.

According to Santa Cruz County Counsel Ruby Marquez, factors in attempting to place a sexually violent predator outside of their court-determined county of residence include whether the person has lived, worked, or has next-of-kin in the alternative county.

According to Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Alex Byers, Cheek had a variety of ties to other counties, including time spent on supervised probation and a work history prior to 1980. He went on to say that while Cheek would not have to live directly with family members in Butte, he would still relocate there to be close to them.

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