Seattle man charged in home invasion, attack on female UW students

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A 34-year-old Seattle man who allegedly broke into a University District home, tied up six female University of Washington students and threatened them at knifepoint was charged Wednesday with nine counts of burglary, robbery and kidnapping.

King County prosecutors also added sexual motivation to two of the burglary and kidnapping charges because the defendant, Robert Hitt, allegedly forced one of the students to remove her clothes during the ordeal.

Deadly weapon enhancements on all of the charges were added along with a rapid recidivism allegation because Hitt was just released from prison in January after serving a sentence for raping a UW student in 2001.

"Courageous action by the young women during this terrifying ordeal and a quick response by the Seattle Police Department kept this crime from having a tragic ending," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said. "We will make sure that he never walks our streets again."

If convicted, the defendant faces a life sentence under the state's "Two Strikes" law for repeat violent sex offenders.

Hitt was being held in the King County Jail on $900,000 bail. Prosecutors on Wednesday asked that a judge change that and deny bail. Arraigment is scheduled for March 21.

Monday's break-in happened in the 5000 block of 20th Ave. NE, in the University District, around 3:30 a.m. 

Police said the man used a rock wrapped in an article of clothing to break a lower-level window to gain access to the home. Armed with a knife, police said, the suspect started waking up the women, one by one, who lived here.

“He rounded up six of the eight women and took them into a room and he bound them around their hands. He made one of the victims disrobe,” Seattle police spokeswoman Renee Witt said.

Two of the roommates were able to hide and call 911. Police arrived within four minutes and arrested Hitt inside the home, Witt said.

In the probable cause statement filed in court Tuesday, police said when they arrested Hitt in the house and asked him why he was there, he said "he came to the very first house and decided to 'rob it' for beer money."  He also "admitted to binding the victims," the statement said.

When Hitt was  released from prison in January, the state Department of Corrections classified Hitt as being a low risk to reoffend. But the DOC also eliminated a particular polygraph arousal screening program two years ago that might have resulted in a different conclusion.

Dan Knoepfler, a mental health evaluator and past president of the Washington Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, said much of it boils down to cutting budgets.

“With the budget cuts, the way the climate is currently, they’ve cut some of their checks and balances to really understand what a person is thinking and feeling and what’s going on with them,” he said.

The DOC said, however, that Hitt completed two sex offender treatment programs in prison and had just started a third, year-long program since being released required him to show up.

According to the Department of Corrections, Hitt was considered a low risk to commit a new crime when released on Jan. 10, 2012.  They say he was being supervised and most recently reported to his community corrections officer on Feb. 21, and completed a treatment program last week.






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