A convicted rapist named Michael Cheek, who psychologists have said could be at risk of reoffending, wants to become the newest Bonny Doon resident, and District Attorney Jeff Rosell says he’s trying to stop that from happening.
“We fought tooth and nail at every opportunity for him to remain in the hospital,” he said. “He shouldn’t be out. And he certainly shouldn’t be in that location.”
Cheek, a Concord resident, abducted and raped a Santa Cruz woman he met at Seabright Beach in 1980. A court found he used a firearm during the violent crime. Before Cheek was able to serve his prison term, he escaped and raped another victim in Lake County.
According to court records Cheek, 69, was diagnosed with paraphilia (extreme sexual desires) and personality disorder.
In August 1997, Cheek was committed to the Department of State Hospitals, in Coalinga. In 2009, a jury determined Cheek to be a sexually violent predator.
Prior to a 2006 trial, in which Cheek sought his freedom, a psychologist determined he “is likely to commit a sexually violent predatory offense if released into the community.”
In addition, in 2002, Dr. Dale Arnold, a psychologist contracted by the Department of Mental Health to conduct sexually violent predator evaluations, interviewed Cheek and determined his “age did not eliminate the other factors for risk of reoffending.”
Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Stephen Siegel ordered Cheek’s conditional release on Oct. 7, 2019 to begin outpatient treatment and supervision as the final phase of the relapse prevention program administered by the Department of State Hospitals in Coalinga.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ashley Keehn said the local law enforcement agency doesn’t want to see Cheek take up residence in the community.
“We believe his placement in Bonny Doon would be a risk to public safety and presents a number of concerns,” she said. “With the remote location, method of supervision and unreliable communication in that area this would increase the chance for Mr. Cheek to reoffend.”
Sheriff Jim Hart told the court he was against it, she added.
“It will ultimately be the judge’s decision whether he is housed there or not,” Keehn said.
Before he looked at the Bonny Doon option, Cheek first looked at moving to Redwood City. This generated significant community outcry in San Mateo County.
In a statement, Third District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty said there’d be a number of reasons to worry if Cheek moved in.
“The Sheriff has limited coverage and slow response times to Bonny Doon,” he said. “Cheek will be on an electronic monitor reliant on WiFi. Bonny Doon has limited internet access and frequent power outages making effective monitoring unreliable. This makes both monitoring and the ability of people to report criminal behavior limited.”
Coonerty says it’s the “worst” place to host a violent sex offender.
“Bonny Doon is a wooded area with many families who just experienced the worst disaster in the County’s history,” he said in a message sent out to constituents. “I’m sorry to be adding to the trauma surrounding the one-year anniversary of the fire.”
Rosell, the DA, says his office will try to argue their case against Cheek taking up residence in Bonny Doon at the next hearing before Judge Syda Cogliati on Sept. 7.