State to put Costa Mesa sex offender back on the registry

Cary Jay Smith was recently released from a state psychiatric hospital, 21 years after being committed.
Cary Jay Smith was recently released from a state psychiatric hospital, 21 years after being committed for his desire to sexually assault a 7-year-old boy in his Costa Mesa neighborhood.
(Courtesy of the Orange County district attorney’s office.)

A twice-convicted child predator who was somehow dropped from the state’s sex offender registry before his recent release from a psychiatric hospital is again required to register.

The state attorney general’s office told the Orange County district attorney’s office late Friday afternoon that it agreed with the prosecutor’s assertion that Cary Jay Smith needs to register as a sex offender.

Smith, 59, was released July 14 from Coalinga State Hospital outside of Fresno after more than 20 years of involuntary commitment for fantasizing about raping, torturing and murdering young boys. He was briefly free to move about without restriction, but police tailed him as he bounced around three counties over a tense week and a half checking into and out of motels and care facilities.

Police in Costa Mesa, then Orange, Corona, Lake Elsinore, the San Diego area, Garden Grove and Santa Ana put out community alerts as Smith landed in their areas. Neighbors furiously objected and even rallied protests, and he typically left within a day or two.

He returned to Costa Mesa on Wednesday and has been in an undisclosed facility since, according to Costa Mesa police.

Spitzer and Board of Supervisors Chair Michelle Steel issued a public warning upon Smith’s release from Coalinga and demanded Gov. Gavin Newsom reinstate Smith’s lifetime registrant requirement, which was dropped without explanation in 2005. The mother of one of his alleged targets also organized an online petition.

Smith was committed in 1999 after his then-wife found a letter detailing his desires to victimize a 7-year-old boy in his Costa Mesa neighborhood. He argued for his freedom in several civil trials over the years as the state hospital agency sought to renew his hold, but he was always kept in custody.

The state hospital agency did not renew its hold against Smith this year, allowing it to expire.

“From the second I learned that this dangerous predator was being released back on to our communities without any restrictions or supervision, I directed the Orange County district attorney’s office to do everything we could to ensure our residents had the information they needed to protect their children,” Spitzer said in a statement. “Today, the children of Orange County and all of California are safer as a result of these restrictions once again being imposed.”

Though Smith was never charged with a crime over the letter, he previously pleaded guilty to two separate sexual offenses against children in the 1980s, the D.A. said.

In 1984, he pleaded to annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18. He then later pleaded guilty to soliciting lewd conduct from a minor in 1985. Both of these offenses required lifetime sex offender registration at the time.

The state removed the registration requirement for the later offense because of a change in statute. It remains unclear why Smith was not required to register as a sex offender for his earlier conviction, however.

Once he’s reregistered, the public will be able to look Smith up on the California’s Megan’s Law website,

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