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Convicted sexual predator finds no post-prison solace: Self-professed 'monster' has been ostracized, bullied

7-27-2003 Multi-States Michigan to New Mexico:

This is the worst case of mass multi-state hysteria and stalking, initiated and fueled by a Michigan Prosecutor (Bill Forsyth, Kent County, Mich., prosecutor), in which the police, the public and even the Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor Martin Chavez took part: The David Seibers story.

.ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- From the crest of his property in the Sandia Mountains, David Siebers can look out at the scrub pine and cactus of New Mexico's high desert. It is a desolate land, dry and remote, where a man could get lost -- or hide. For 10 months, the press chased the Michigan man across the country. Someone slashed his tires. Someone else kicked in his ribs. Police followed him around the clock. Churchgoing parents held signs telling him to "go back where you came from -- Hell." And here, where he retreated into the mountains, they burned down his home.

"I understand their concern," said Siebers, standing on the cement foundation where his home once stood. "I'm America's No. 1 monster." The soft-spoken Grand Rapids man served more than 20 years in Michigan prisons for a series of violent sex crimes. FBI profilers think he will commit more. So far, the only crimes committed have been against Siebers. The balding 45-year-old has become a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of the nation's sex-offender registry laws and the moral quicksand surrounding a bad man to whom bad things are being done. When has a person paid the price for past crimes? How far should parents go to protect their children? Where does a man go when he's not wanted anywhere? Questions of civil rights and justice have different answers when a sexual predator lives next door.

Prisoner No. 162811 packed methodically, stowing 10 years of life into two foot lockers. "All I wanted was to start a life," Siebers said later. "My grand intention was to be average." To Bill Forsyth, Siebers was far from average. The Kent County, Mich., prosecutor glared at an FBI report warning that Siebers would commit more crimes. It was a thought that made Forsyth shudder. "I've convicted (people of) some pretty heinous crimes, but none of them have bothered me like these," Forsyth said. Siebers had been a star at Northview High School in Grand Rapids, lettering in track and cross country and being named Outstanding Senior Chemistry Student.

But by age 22, things had gone wrong. Facing marital and financial difficulties, "he snapped," said Dr. Robert Krangle, who has befriended Siebers in recent months in New Mexico. "He snapped bad." In August 1979, Siebers walked into a Get It and Go grocery store in Grand Rapids, pointing a gun at a frightened female clerk. Siebers took money from the cash register, then raped the clerk. More horrors followed. At a Wendy's restaurant, he allegedly ordered four employees into a back room, forced them to undress and raped one of the women. During another robbery, he allegedly sexually assaulted a female employee while holding a gun on the male workers.

Siebers pleaded guilty to one robbery and one rape. In 1989, after nine years as a model prisoner, Siebers was released on parole. It took only seven months for Siebers to be arrested again -- this time for trying to lure a 10-year-old girl into his truck. At his home, police found the book "Sexual Trafficking in Children: An Investigation of the Child Sex Trade," an academic analysis of child abuse that took on a different meaning in the hands of a sex felon. Siebers stayed out of trouble in prison, but some of his mail was disturbing. In 1994, he ordered several nudist magazines and books containing bestiality and incest. In 1997, prison officials stopped a book containing incest cartoons from being delivered, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Siebers' participation in sex offender treatment didn't lessen Forsyth's fears. In September 2002, with Siebers again leaving prison, Forsyth did something he hadn't done in 27 years in the prosecutor's office -- a simple, common-sense act that would launch Siebers on a cross-country odyssey, frighten thousands of parents and cost police departments hundreds of thousands of dollars. He warned the public. A dangerous sex offender was getting out of prison. Everyone should be careful.

Megan's Law
Siebers was the kind of person legislators had in mind when they designed the nation's sex-offender registries. The laws, which vary somewhat from state to state, require those convicted of sex crimes to report their home addresses to police. In most states, including Michigan, the names and addresses of sex offenders are available to the public via Internet sites. Generically called Megan's Law, for a New Jersey girl abducted and killed by a convicted sex offender who lived in her neighborhood, the laws allow parents to check if sex offenders live near them. Forsyth took Megan's Law further. He informed Grand Rapids residents of Siebers' impending release. Police allegedly told family members of one of Siebers' victims to arm themselves, according to the Grand Rapids Press. Siebers knew there had been publicity about his release, but "I thought the attention would end quickly."

The stories continued, however, as did a remarkable 24-hour surveillance by Michigan State Police. Last year, 1,007 sex offenders were released from Michigan prisons. Of those, Siebers alone was surveiled pre-emptively, followed from the moment he left Mound Correctional Facility in Detroit on Sept. 6, 2002. "We've never tailed someone out of prison," Michigan State Police Lt. Gary Gorski said. "But I never heard that sort of discussion (by a prosecutor about an ex-con). It was believed he was a dangerous guy." With police still following him 11 days after his release, Siebers left Michigan, sure he was escaping scrutiny. He checked into a hotel in Toledo, Ohio on Sept. 17. By noon, police were at his hotel.

Warned by Michigan authorities, Toledo police drove Siebers to the bus station and bought him a $50 ticket on the next bus out of Ohio. "They decided to run him out of Dodge," said Lucas County Sheriff's Detective Ernest Lamb, who was at the hotel. "I'd never seen that anywhere but the movies." Shell-shocked, Siebers rode south through Ohio. "The whole thing was confusing and frustrating," Siebers said. "I had no idea where I was going to go and what I was going to do." Seven hours later, Siebers stepped off the bus into Ashland, Ky. "I didn't know where Ashland was," Siebers said. "(But) you kind of hope at each step that it settles down." Police were waiting for him at the bus stop.

"(Toledo) called us and told us about his criminal history, and sure enough the bus came in and there he was," Ashland Police Capt. Don Petrella said. "There are other people in this area who are registered sexual offenders. But this guy had no connections in the area." Siebers awoke the next day to find a squad car in the hotel parking lot and a Grand Rapids TV station's crew in the lobby. "It was hard to find a location where he wouldn't be under scrutiny," Petrella said. "He said he'd been unable to keep a low profile anywhere he'd been." Siebers' parents drove from Grand Rapids to Kentucky, picked up their son and headed west, not knowing where the journey would end, trailed by Ashland police to the county line.

'What's the story?' Vickie Ashcraft describes Siebers as many do. Quiet. Polite. Well-spoken. That didn't stop the owner of Enchanted Trails R.V. Park in Albuquerque, N.M., from serving an eviction notice when the TV crews showed up. It was mid-October, and Siebers was now in his fourth state in the month he'd been out of prison. New Mexico was warm. Housing was cheap. And residents had a "live and let-live" attitude, New Jersey lawyer Jack Furlong advised Siebers' family. He registered his address with police after pulling his parents' aging Airstream trailer into the park. Four days later, finding his address on New Mexico's sex offender registry, the media descended. Watching the news that night, Ashcraft discovered her tenant's past.

"I had customers with children and, of course, I had female customers," Ashcraft said. "I had rest rooms and showers open to everyone. I didn't want to wake up one morning and find someone trapped in the rest room and attacked. Oh my gosh, what on earth was I supposed to do?" There are 400 convicted sex offenders living in Albuquerque. But Siebers instantly became a pariah because he had moved there, a sex fiend from Michigan who had come to New Mexico to hurt women and children. Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez held press conferences denouncing Siebers. He asked businesses to donate money to buy Siebers a bus ticket out of town. He ordered police to keep Siebers under 24-hour surveillance until he left the city. But this time, Siebers didn't leave.

Each time the mayor held a press conference, every day his face led the nightly news, Siebers thought it was the last, and things would finally settle down. "You sort of hope it'll be a flash in the pan," Siebers said. "What's the story? I'm living here. How often can that story with essentially no new content keep running?" The answer was every day. At least 60 articles were written about Siebers in the two Albuquerque newspapers in a four-month span. TV stations had daily updates on his movements. A TV helicopter followed Siebers down a highway as he moved his Airstream to a nearby city, as if he were O.J. Simpson in his Bronco. "I'm all for informing the public, but this was irresponsible," said Mark Horner, a former reporter for KOB-TV in Albuquerque. "It was television at its worst." "It was a circus," Ashcraft said. "I don't condone any of the illegal things people have done, but the way this man was treated ... things got blown out of proportion.

'Hound him'
The newspapers were breathless in their coverage. "Hound him. Hound this predatory sex creep," raged the Albuquerque Tribune's Kate Nelson in a column that typified the hysteria. "Hound him into someone else's neighborhood. Then hound him from there. Hound him and hound him and hound him." Nelson now says that column "sticks in my throat," but that she was expressing the fear many in Albuquerque felt. "I can't think of any person who isn't creeped out (by Siebers' crimes)," she said. "I don't know of any community in America that is prepared to let this kind of person get on with their lives." When asked by the media where Siebers should go, Mayor Chavez suggested "a cave in Afghanistan. Perhaps his arrival could be timed to occur simultaneously with an Air Force bomb run."

Siebers moved from RV park to RV park, looking for a home. On Christmas Eve, the Bernallilo police chief knocked on his door. His officers were at home with their families for the holiday, leaving no one to keep Siebers under 24-hour surveillance. So, he asked Siebers, could you move on? Having heard his plight on TV, Robert Krangle brought Siebers a Christmas dinner. "They made it sound like we had Charles Manson living up there," Krangle said. "He knows he screwed up. But he paid his debt and they turned him loose. Where is he supposed to go? The moon?"

'A wounded animal'
Those arguments are easy to make around the water cooler, but more difficult in Kali Maestas' front lawn, as she worried about the infamous sex offender moving in next to her children's bus stop. Scott Goold offered Siebers a room in his home, in a middle-class subdivision in Albuquerque. Within hours, neighbors picketed his home. Residents dissolved the neighborhood association because Goold was president, and they formed a separate association without him. "I'm shunned," Goold said. "I've never seen people so intensely angry." "I understand what Scott was trying to do," said neighbor Maestas. "Here is a wounded animal, should we keep throwing stones at it? Well, no. But we have to protect our children first. Maestas looked up Siebers on the state's Internet registry and was horrified to discover 11 other sex offenders within a five-minute drive of her home. The only offender she knew was the one who wasn't yet living nearby.

"If I had my way, they (sex offenders) would have their own leper colony so we wouldn't have to see them," Maestas said. By January, the atmosphere was poisonous. The tires of Siebers' van were slashed. A week later, a man chased and beat Siebers 100 yards from three police officers. By the time police pulled the man off, Siebers was unconscious. He had a gash across his cheek and broken ribs. The man was charged with a misdemeanor, but the charge was dismissed when police didn't show up to testify at the trial. Surveillance was so tight, police sometimes opened the door for Siebers when he went to the convenience store. One pair routinely brought a TV/VCR combo on stakeout to watch movies in their patrol car. By April, city and county police in New Mexico had spent almost $140,000 following a man who, to the best of their knowledge, had not committed a crime.

Nick Bakas, Albuquerque chief public safety officer, insists the surveillance has served a purpose. Police don't believe Siebers has committed any crimes, but they have seen him "act suspiciously," he says. "If we can't protect our kids, just who are we going to protect?" Bakas said. "We want him out for the same reason you guys ran him out in Michigan. Good grief, what are we, the sexual predator capital of America?" The around-the-clock surveillance ended April 11. A day later, someone burned Siebers' trailer to the ground. Siebers was staying with a friend the night of the fire. "That was the lowest moment since I came to New Mexico," he said. "There have been difficulties. But what choice do I have?" Police have no suspects in the arson. Siebers doubts they ever will.

No-win situation
In a way, the fire helped Siebers. Local media have grown tired of the story. Polls show that more than half of Albuquerque residents now think Siebers has been treated unfairly. Mayor Chavez, accused of encouraging vigilantism by the American Civil Liberties Union, avoids talking about the ex-con since the blaze. Siebers hasn't decided whether he will rebuild. He considers moving, but can't see the point. "If you pick up and move, you start the cycle over again," he said. Siebers now lives in the home of a neighbor, a mile from his property on Jesse James Drive. He's surviving financially on a dwindling inheritance left him by a relative, and looking for a job. "I am not a danger to society," Siebers said. "(But) you have to prove yourself over time. I understand why people are afraid. Reasonable concerns are good things. But I don't think raising fear to the point of panic is constructive."

Meanwhile, a diminished surveillance continues to cost police $1,000 per week. It's a no-win situation, Bakas said. If Siebers doesn't commit a crime, officials wasted money; if he does, officials didn't do enough. Goold is still shunned by his neighbors, but a neighborhood watch has been reactivated -- a direct result of Siebers. At the Albuquerque Tribune, Kate Nelson's views are evolving with those of the community. "It's hard not to feel sorry for him," Nelson said. "For the heinousness of his crimes, and whatever potential he has to commit more crimes, he has not done anything." Vickie Ashcraft still keeps the can of Mace she bought when Siebers lived at Enchanted Trails R.V. Park. She kicked him out. She'd do it again. It's the right thing to do, even if, somehow, it also feels wrong.

"I still don't know which side of the fence I'm on," Ashcraft said. "All the man wants is to start a new life. But why did he choose us?" And in Michigan, the man who sparked the chain of events remains convinced he did the right thing. "I was aware it might be difficult for him," Forsyth said. "He's going to be somebody's problem. I just hope he doesn't hurt somebody."
Captions from photos (no longer available) in article:
After a beating, near-24-hour police surveillance and media hounding, David Siebers has taken refuge on property in New Mexico near the site of his trailer, which was burned down.

David Siebers surveys the remains of his burned-out home. Siebers, a convicted sexual predator, served more than 20 years in Michigan prisons for a series of sex crimes. He has been followed, harassed, beaten and had his home destroyed since his release from prison in 2002.

What's left of Siebers' home smolders as New Mexico firefighters put out the last of the flames. Siebers has become a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of sex-offender registry laws.

Kali Maestas of Albuquerque helped lead a protest in front of Scott Goold's home after Goold offered a room to Siebers. "If I had my way, they (sex offenders) would have their own leper colony so we wouldn't have to see them," Maestas says.

Scott Goold offered David Siebers a room in his Albuquerque, N.M., home. Within hours, neighbors picketed the house. "I've never seen people so intensely angry," Goold said. Residents dissolved the neighborhood association because Goold was president.
POLL in article (results not available anymore):
The sex offender next door: David Siebers served time for violent sex crimes. If he moved into your neighborhood, what would you do?

A) Nothing, but I'd stay alert; B) Harass him, picket his home; C) Anything it takes to get him to leave more.. : by Ron French / The Detroit News

Heights invite denounced
Scott Goold stood at the edge of his lawn with a subtle smile while his neighbors hurled a barrage of insults.

They held signs that read: "Go away and take Siebers with you," "Protect the children," and "Goold are you crazy or sick?"

They chanted, "Not here, not ever."

About 100 New Holiday Park residents on Sunday protested Goold's decision to invite convicted sex offender David Siebers to move into his home in the Northeast Albuquerque neighborhood.

"He has nowhere else to go," said Goold, president of the New Holiday Park Neighborhood Association. "People are threatening to firebomb the place he is staying in now. We aren't solving the problem by passing it on to someone else."

But 11-year-old Emma Bordegaray captivated the crowd when she argued that children in the neighborhood fear the convicted sex offender, who has been shunned from a half-dozen towns.

"We want to ride our bikes and be safe," she said during the hourlong protest. "We can't be safe and act like kids if we're worried about a child molester."

Siebers was convicted of raping three women in Grand Rapids, Mich., and trying to lure a 10-year-old child into his vehicle.

When his blue van and silver trailer pulled into Albuquerque late last year, Mayor Martin Chavez denounced Siebers as dangerous and likely to reoffend.

Siebers was evicted from a West Side trailer park in December and then made stops in Santa Rosa and Bernalillo before ending up in Veguita, a town south of Belen. He was beaten last week while there.

On Sunday, mothers held their children, telling Goold to think of his wife and others before inviting Siebers into the area.

"I was 5 years old again, I was 7 years old again, I was 9 years old again because of you," one woman said while holding back tears.

"The person who molested me was free until the day he died, and I don't want to put any of these children through that pain," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used.

Albuquerque City Councilor Greg Payne, who represents the Northeast Heights district, joined the crowd at the Goold protest.

"I have talked with Mayor Chavez, and he has assured me that if David Siebers moves here, he will again deal with the full force of the Albuquerque police, who will make his life miserable."

The group sought Goold's resignation as president of the neighborhood association, and Payne asked him to rescind his invitation to Siebers.

"No, I will not be that selfish and pass this problem off to someone else," Goold said in response. "This neighborhood is great because we all look out for each other. I think this is the best place for him because he can be watched and allowed to try to live a normal life."

Goold made the offer to Siebers on television recently. He said he has not spoken personally to Siebers.

Goold said he would reconsider if law enforcement or community leaders found a better solution that kept Siebers safe.

The crowd responded by demanding Goold, his wife and Siebers leave the state.

"We've chased David Siebers out of Albuquerque once before, and we can do it again," Payne said.

Undeterred, Goold said he will do as he pleases on his property.

"This was good, though," he said of the protest. "It's democracy at work and was more productive than anything our mayor or City Council did." ..more.. by Iliana Limon

New Mexico Ordinance by Mayor

1 comment:

Scott Goold said...

My name is Scott Goold. Currently I reside and work in Hawai'i, but my wife and I still own our home in the NE Heights of Albuquerque. It's been over a dozen years since this incident. What have we learned?

Kali Maestas, who led the group opposed to my positon, and I rebuilt our neighborly friendship. We had a warm, positive relationship prior to this crisis. As they say, time mends all wounds.

I always understood their concerns. Kali had suffered violent rape and I cannot imagine such horror. Our society fails to protect our women and children. They deserve better.

Sex offender registration is improved today. This issue with Mr. Siebers pointed out many flaws of government. And, as I argued at the time, this was a massive failure of government. It still amazes me that Michigan would release someone but tell citizens he may be dangerous. What are people to do?

Mayor Chavez no longer leads our city. His failure as mayor during the crisis was unconscionable. His solution was to force David to flee - to where? Who else had the resources to watch David?

Essentially, government passed this alleged problem to citizens who only knew fear. And, government after government passed the buck to someone else. Why do we pay our taxes if they punt when challenged?

I'm thankful David has found some peace. We met a number of times and he apologized for his terrible crimes. He seemed sincere. He wanted to build a new life. Nobody can forgive David. Nobody will ever forget. This is understandable. Yet all of us are human and make mistakes. The best societies find ways to allow people to rebuild without unduly posing a threat to society.

Nearly everyone in Albuqueurque initially opposed our action in 2002. A majority believed David had been wrongfully treated when we finished. David was tragically wrong; this nation, Albuquerque in particular, reacted unjustly and wrongly. Wrongs never make right.

It is my hope we continue to perfect our nation. I hope that is the lesson we take from this. Aloha to Kali Maestas and her beautiful family.