Dozens of Borrego Springs residents pleaded with a judge Friday to reject placing a sexually violent predator in their small desert community, two weeks after another judge allowed a different sexually violent predator to live in the area.
Residents concerned about the release of Douglas Badger, 79, were able to attend and testify at his placement hearing Friday morning at San Diego Superior Court.
Judge Theodore M. Weathers listened to the concerns and will issue his ruling later on whether to approve the placement of Badger, who served time in prison for sexually assaulting hitchhikers — usually young men — at gunpoint.
If approved, Badger would live under strict supervision at 1619 Zuni Trail, in a neighborhood toward the south end of the desert community, just off Yaqui Pass and Borrego Springs roads.
More than 50 people squeezed into the courtroom Friday morning to voice their concerns, with even more people attending and speaking over Zoom. Some were forced to stand outside since the room was full.
Among concerned neighbors who addressed the judge was Terrie Kellmeyer, a mother of three young children. Two of them are deaf and homeschooled. Badger would live across the street.
“They cannot hear footsteps coming up behind them,” Kellmeyer said. “They cannot hear if Douglas Badger is at their window at night.”
Before the hearing, County Supervisor Jim Desmond — a vocal opponent of the Borrego Springs placement — held a news conference in front of the courthouse, protesting the proposed placement.
“This turns the neighborhoods and the people living in the neighborhoods lives’ upside down,” Desmond said. “Whether this sexual predator ever commits (a crime) again, they are living in fear and threat of this person living in their neighborhood.”
Common concerns voiced by residents Friday included limited police presence, spotty cellphone signals, the lack of streetlights and the distance between their homes and health and medical services.
Some residents worried that if they needed emergency response because of Badger, first responders wouldn’t show up in time.
Two weeks ago, despite similar concerns of Borrego residents, Superior Court Judge David Gill approved placing sexually violent predator Michael Martinez, 69, in a home on Running M Road, a roughly two-hour drive from downtown San Diego.
Sexually violent predators represent less than 1 percent of California’s registered sex offender population. To be designated a predator, an offender has to have been convicted of a sex crime against at least one victim and be diagnosed with a mental disorder that makes him likely to re-offend.
In Badger’s case, authorities say he’s been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and sexual sadism.
Badger has served five separate prison terms for several convictions between 1959 and 1991, with crimes that included child molestation, kidnapping and forcible oral copulation, according to the District Attorney’s Office. The crimes occurred in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.
The predator designation comes after a person has served their prison sentence and is then committed to a state mental hospital following civil proceedings.
Most offenders who fit the criteria — including Badger — are housed at Coalinga State Hospital in Fresno County, where they can take part in a program that aims to teach them how to curb their criminal urges.
By law, people designated as predators are committed indefinitely, although after a year they have the right to petition for a new hearing to be released.
Badger had already been approved to qualify for conditional placement based on evaluation by state hospital officials.
Last year, officials proposed placing Badger near Mount Helix or in Rancho Bernardo, but those proposals fell through after heavy community pushback.
“If it was not appropriate (for Badger to be placed) in Mount Helix, and it wasn’t appropriate in Rancho Bernardo, why is it appropriate here?” said Laura Anderson, who would live on the same street as Badger with her 12-year-old son.
Judge Weathers said he had already visited the site prior to the hearing and drove down neighboring streets to get a sense of the area. He will revisit the case later before making his final decision.