Southern California

Recently-Released Dangerous Sex Offender Leaves Santa Ana

He has bounced around the Southland for the past week after being met with repeated protests by residents during brief stays in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

San Diego County Sheriff

What to Know

  • Cary Jay Smith pleaded guilty in 1985 to a misdemeanor sex offense against a child, requiring him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. However, in 2005, that requirement was lifted for an unknown reason, the OC DA said.
  • He was committed to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino in 1999 on a psychological hold when his wife gave a psychiatrist a letter her husband wrote that described sex acts he fantasized about on a 7-year-old boy in his neighborhood in Costa Mesa, according to prosecutors.
  • During hearings he testified that he continues to fantasize about sexually assaulting and killing young boys, prosecutors said.

Recently released sex offender Cary Jay Smith is the move again, with Santa Ana police announcing Wednesday he had left that city.   

Smith had been staying at a mental health facility in Santa Ana since Tuesday evening, but police said Wednesday afternoon he had left and found a new place to stay. His latest whereabouts were not immediately disclosed.

Smith has bounced around the Southland for the past week after being met with repeated protests by residents during brief stays in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties. He checked into a motel in Garden Grove on Monday, but relocated to a facility in Santa Ana by Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday, Smith was taken to appointments in the area by Orange County mental health officials, who were attempting to find him a place to live, Garden Grove Police Lt. Rich Burillo told City News Service.

The Garden Grove Police Department announced Monday evening that Smith had checked into a motel, and officers set up a surveillance detail to monitor him. Protesters eventually amassed outside the motel Tuesday morning, prompting him to depart.

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Santa Ana police announced late Tuesday that they had been informed that Smith was at a health-care center in that city, and they were monitoring the situation.

Smith was released from Coalinga State Hospital on July 14 after spending 21 years there for openly fantasizing about raping and killing children.

"In not renewing the commitment, the state hospital determined that Mr. Smith was no longer a danger to others,'' Smith's attorney, Staycie Sena, said in a statement. "He has received decades of treatment. We must trust the rehabilitative process. Mr. Smith is under constant police surveillance, is cooperating fully with various law enforcement agencies and is working with mental health professionals to ensure the safety of the community.''

Sena told City News Service in an email that the protesters who have been gathering outside various locations where Smith was staying were endangering public safety themselves.

"Please understand that by continuing to chase him down, you are contributing to a potential community disaster,'' Sena said. "He is being monitored closely by law enforcement officials and working closely with mental health professionals. Releasing his whereabouts so that angry crowds appear is not beneficial to anyone and only increases the risk of community harm.''

Following his release from the state hospital, Smith stayed in Los Angeles for one night before making his way to Orange, where he checked into a halfway home on July 16, said Sgt. Phil McMullin of the Orange Police Department.

On Saturday morning, Corona police said Smith had relocated to a motel in that Riverside County city, where he was being monitored by law enforcement.

At 9:05 p.m. Saturday, Corona police tweeted: "A short time ago Cary decided to leave the City of Corona. Thank you to everyone who engaged with us upon learning he was in our community.''

A few hours later, the Riverside County Sheriff's Lake Elsinore station issued a community alert. "Convicted Sex Offender Cary Smith is CURRENTLY in the city of Lake Elsinore,'' it read.

Smith left Riverside County following protests against him.

"Cary decided to leave the Lake Elsinore area. Thank you to everyone who engaged with us upon learning he was in our community,'' the Riverside County Sheriff's Department's Lake Elsinore Station posted Sunday on Facebook.

A protest against Smith staying in the Lake Elsinore area was planned but called off following the announcement that he had left Lake Elsinore.

Protesters did go to the 31000 block of Casino Drive at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Riverside County Sheriff's Sgt. Sarah Mack said.

At about 4 p.m. Sunday, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department revealed on Twitter that Smith was in their jurisdiction.

"@SDSheriff is monitoring a sex offender released by Coalinga State Hospital ... to ensure the safety of our communities. 59-year-old Cary Jay Smith is staying at a motel in the North County.''

Smith then relocated to Garden Grove.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer and Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel issued a statement last week about Smith and sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for help researching why Smith was no longer required to register as a sex offender despite a conviction and requirement to do so in 1985.

Newsom's office referred questions to the Department of State Hospitals. Ken August of the Department of State Hospitals said state and federal privacy laws prohibited the department from commenting.   

Smith received a letter from the state Department of Justice informing him that he no longer had to register as a sex offender, OC Assistant District Attorney Shawn Nelson said. It's still not clear why that happened, Nelson said.

It's also unclear why Smith was released from a state psychiatric hospital, Nelson said.

Smith appeared to be "very mild and passive'' when McMullin of the Orange police spoke with him Thursday night.

Smith pleaded guilty in 1985 to a misdemeanor sex offense against a child, requiring him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Spitzer said.

However, in 2005, that requirement was lifted for an unknown reason, Spitzer said.

"We need to look into this and know why he is no longer a lifetime 290,'' Spitzer said, referring to the code in the law that requires sex offenders to register with authorities so they can be tracked.

"We believe he is a lifetime registrant,'' Spitzer said.

Smith was committed to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino in 1999 on a psychological hold when his wife gave a psychiatrist a letter her husband wrote that described sex acts he fantasized about committing with a 7-year-old boy in his neighborhood in Costa Mesa, according to prosecutors.

The state kept him locked up in a state hospital under a civil commitment that concluded he was a danger to children, according to prosecutors. Under that law, he had the opportunity to seek release in a trial every six months.

However, during the hearings he testified that he continues to fantasize about sexually assaulting and killing young boys, prosecutors said.

"He calls himself Mr. RTK,'' which stands for Rape, Torture, Kill, Spitzer said. "That's what I think has kept him in. He says, 'If you don't cut off my penis and hands I will molest again.''

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