O.C. motel evicts 7 paroled molesters

Times Staff Writer

A Garden Grove motel evicted seven paroled child molesters Friday after police passed out photos of the men to neighbors and accused the state of “dumping” parolees in the city.

The registered sex offenders were asked to leave the Garden Grove Inn because of the media attention they were drawing, said John Ting, co-owner of the 101-room, two-floor motel where rooms rent for about $300 a week.

“If it’s in the news, some people won’t want to stay here,” said Ting.

The neighboring Hospitality Inn, also cited by Garden Grove police as a dumping spot for paroled sex offenders, plans evictions within four days, according to a man who identified himself Friday as the night manager.

Police issued a public warning Thursday about an increase in the number of paroled child molesters living in the area and accused the state of dumping an excessive number of offenders in the two motels.


Police went door to door to businesses and homes within a quarter mile of the motels, handing out fliers with the names and photos of the 16 high-risk offenders residing at the motels.

Michelle Catenacci, a mother of six who has been staying at the Garden Grove Inn since December, said she was glad for the police and media attention and pleased the men were forced out.

Still, Catenacci said she had known of the sex offenders before she moved in, having checked an Internet database.

“I had no other choice. This is what I could afford,” she said. “We had been asking for months for the management to get rid of them.”

Another guest, who would identify himself only as Ray, said that after learning about some of his neighbors Thursday, he approached one of the men who lived two rooms away. “I told him that I want to make crystal clear that I have three children and I don’t want them bothered,” said the father, whose children are 14, 13 and 8.

Other guests said they were aware that registered sex offenders were at the motel and were largely unfazed by their presence.

“We knew where they all were,” said guest Denise West, who has a 4-year-old daughter. “We wouldn’t let our daughter play outside. I don’t mind seeing them go, but they hadn’t affected me.”

One evicted man, who identified himself only as a registered sex offender in his 70s, said he was unsure where he would go. “We have paid our debt to society. We are still paying by registering,” he said. “But it’s a little unjust when someone comes to your door and says, ‘You gotta move,’ because you committed an offense back in 1985.”

The evicted man said he had lived at the inn for nearly two months without any problems, holding down several small jobs to supplement his pension. “This is a lifetime thing with us, and this doesn’t make it any easier,” he said. “We’re still human.”

Both motels are on a commercial swath near Beach and Garden Grove boulevards, sandwiched between commercial and industrial buildings.

California law limits where paroled sex offenders may live. In Orange County, few locations meet those restrictions, police said. But the Garden Grove strip mall does.

Although it is the parolees’ responsibility to find housing, parole agents can direct them to locations such as the motels, said Bill Sessa, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The agents, however, do not mandate that parolees live in a particular place, he said.

Garden Grove police said they had an informal agreement with parole officials for nearly a year to limit the number of registered sex offenders at the two motels to 10 and became alarmed when that number jumped to 16 this week. But Sessa said he was unaware of such an agreement.

Charles Onley, research associate at the Maryland-based Center for Sex Offender Management, a nonprofit project that helps governments manage offenders, said the problem of housing such people is growing nationwide because of increasing community restrictions on where they can live.

With nowhere to put paroled sex offenders, the Florida Department of Corrections recently approved housing some registered offenders under a freeway.

“As soon as the story gets out, people want [sex offenders] to move. With more jurisdictions passing residency restrictions, a lot of them live as migrants or transients,” Onley said. “With any offender, it is not a good indicator of success for reentering in the community. It [creates] more of a transitory situation.”

New California restrictions are limiting options for offenders, Sessa said. Previously, high-risk sex offenders who were also child molesters couldn’t live within a half-mile of a school. Proposition 83, approved by voters in November, added a restriction that affects all newly paroled sex offenders, prohibiting them from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks.

“We have a legal obligation to return to them to the county where they came from,” Sessa said. “With the increasing restrictions on where you can place sex offenders, it simply limits the options.”