State Pays $126,000 to Move House to Empty Desert

The State of California is paying more than $126,000 this year to move a house in the middle of the empty desert, 55 miles from the nearest city, for a man who has run out of prison sentences.

Steven Joseph Willett, 57, was freed from prison, and then a mental hospital, with a record of four felony sex crimes, including rape, attempted rape and lewd and lascivious acts with a 13-year-old child, according to the Desert Sun.

Willett was released in September 2008 and the state moved him into a brand new $34,000 mobile home. The home was hauled out to a lot off state Route 177, near Desert Center, a sunbaked hamlet of 300 people some 200 miles east of Los Angeles.

"They dumped him in the desert," said Cheryl Magsam, a waitress at the small cafe off Highway 177, the lightly-travelled back country road between Indio and Lake Havasu. "We have girls that work the night shift alone."

Willet is not allowed to have Internet service, and is occasionally watched by private security guards who are looking for people who may want to burn the house down because of its occupant, the Desert Sun reported.

Taxpayers paid $44,000 last year for the guards, who also drive Willett to and from treatment sessions in western Riverside County, while land rental and food for Willett is another $2,000 a month, according to the newspaper.

Willet was released under the "Sexually Violent Predator Act," which ensures those who have served their prison term but may still pose a threat to society remain closely guarded. The state is on the hook for Willett's living expenses until he gets a job, said state officials.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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