Child molester charged again

Deepa Bharath

COSTA MESA -- A convicted child molester who has been locked up for

three years in a state psychiatric hospital for writing a sinister letter

fantasizing about raping and killing a boy has been charged with

molesting another boy five years ago, officials said.

The Orange County district attorney charged Cary Jay Smith, 41, with

performing lewd acts on a Costa Mesa child between September 1996 and

March 1997.

The boy was younger than 14 years old at the time and came forward

with the complaint years later, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Costello,

who is prosecuting the case.

Officials said Smith, a Santa Ana resident at the time, befriended the

boy in his Costa Mesa neighborhood.

The case unfolded when a private investigator befriended Smith during

his time at Patton State Hospital, claiming he wanted to write a book,

officials said.

During interviews with the investigator, Smith divulged information

that pointed in the direction of the victim. The case was investigated by

Costa Mesa police.

Smith has been charged with 22 counts of child molestation. But that

could include a variety of sex acts that have not been specified,

Costello said.

If convicted of all charges, Smith could face up to 50 years in

prison.

Smith's mental illness, however, will play a significant role in the

trial, Costello said.

"The issue is whether he is competent to stand trial," she said.

A hearing will likely follow after Smith's arraignment Feb. 11, when

the court could hear testimony from doctors and psychiatrists, Costello

said.

Smith was admitted to Patton in 1999 after his wife found a letter

written by him that described in lurid detail sexual acts that he wanted

to perform on a 7-year-old Costa Mesa boy.

Smith lived in Santa Ana but regularly visited his parents, who lived

near Paularino Elementary School.

The news of the letter caused an uproar in the Mesa North neighborhood

where he lived, including from the boy's parents, the Vogts.

They have been lobbying since to pass legislation that would allow

child molesters to be placed on lifetime parole.

They haven't been successful. But news of the new charges Monday came

as a pleasant surprise to Lynn Vogt.

"I feel wonderful and relieved," she said. "Fifty years in prison. I

couldn't have asked for more. It doesn't get better than this."

Vogt said she has been living in fear for the last three years that

Smith could be released from the hospital. In 2000, Smith tried to

convince a jury that he was sane enough to be released. But he lost the

trial after several witnesses testified and Smith himself admitted to

molesting more than 200 boys.

Patients who are committed to Patton State Hospital are allowed to

petition for their release every six months. Smith is up for another such

hearing Feb. 23.

Vogt said she and her family have received tremendous support locally

after the incident, which changed their lives and altered their idea of

security.

"It has been more of a community partnership," she said. "I went out

of the way to meet my neighbors and know who they are. It really helped."

* Deepa Bharath covers public safety and courts. She may be reached at

(949) 574-4226 or by e-mail at o7 deepa.bharath@latimes.comf7 .

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