SAN DIEGO — A man deemed a sexually violent predator by the state can soon be placed in a supervised home in rural San Diego County, a judge ruled Friday.
Michael Martinez, 69, was the subject of recent protests in Borrego Springs, a desert community in the northeast corner of the region where officials have considered placing him for months.
In his ruling, San Diego Superior Court Judge David Gill accepted the state’s recommendation to move Martinez from a hospital to a home on Running M. Road in the community. At a previous hearing, Gill said he planned to visit the site to help in his evaluation.
Martinez was diagnosed as a pedophile with personality disorders, according to the San Diego County District Attorney. He was convicted four times between 1979 and 2004 in San Diego and Los Angeles counties. In separate cases, he was charged with child molestation and other crimes against underage victims.
Friday’s decision comes after the state recommended Martinez’s release to a home in Ranchita, not far from Borrego Springs, in 2021. A deal with the landlord fell through in that case.
Proposals to place Martinez and another sexually violent predator, Douglas Badger, are the latest chapter in a long-running debate over housing convicted sex criminals in rural areas of the county.
The state says its inpatient programs for predators can help them acquire social skills and avoid repeating crimes. The Department of State Hospitals says only those who could benefit from conditional release, and who have received intensive treatment, are considered for the program.
Then they are subject to an “intensive regimen” of treatments and supervision, including specialized programs, weekly drug screening, surveillance, polygraph examinations and active GPS tracking. Those measures have not eased the minds of neighbors and victims of sex crimes who have spoken passionately against sexually violent predator placements at meetings and public hearings.
Residents say kids shouldn’t have to live on the same streets as people who have been convicted of abusing minors. Some victims also express doubt about the ability of sexually violent predators to change.
On Twitter Friday, Sup. Jim Desmond called Gill’s ruling “unforgiveable.”
Residents in the area reacted to the decision by Gill.
“My heart dropped,” Betty Dean said. “I thought, gee, why are they doing this in Borrego Springs.”
Betty Dean lives the closest to where the sexually violent predator will call home, and can see Martinez’s home from her kitchen window and garden.
Dean said she knew the previous owner of the four-bedroom house, who passed away recently, and the house sold in the last few months.
“I’m going to try this seven-foot fence up there, so it’ll go right there, so I won’t be able to see most of that and I’m hoping they won’t be able to see me either,” Dean said, and added that she has considered moving if that doesn’t work.
Just one door down from Dean is a family with two teenage children.
“Hopefully they find a mistake or something, that’s what I pray to God,” said Linda Arambula, who lives two doors down.
“Heartbreaking, frustrating there’s no words to explain the feelings as a mother,” Jennifer Arias said.
Arias and her two young boys live .3 miles away, and her sister-in-law lives two doors down from Martinez’s future home.
FOX 5’s Zara Barker contributed to this story.