The state Department of Health Services confirmed Wednesday that convicted sex offender Michael Fink will not be moved to a home on Lathrop Avenue in Manree Park.
In an email to Patch, DHS spokeswoman Claire Smith said the reason Fink's release is being relocated is because one of his victims lives in the area.
"I can confirm that we will not be placing Mr. Fink at the location that was proposed," she wrote. "We make every effort to ensure that individuals who are placed in the community are not placed near their victims. Had we known that a victim lived within a block or two, we would not have chosen that location."
A public information meeting had been scheduled for Thursday at Fratt School to help explain to neighborhood residents the conditions of Fink's release from Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, where he has been since 2008. That meeting is canceled now that Fink's placement is being re-evaluated.
Victim Says She and Daughter Were Threatened
Patch on Tuesday talked to the victim, and she was more than upset to find out Fink would have lived in a home not too far away from where she now lives with her family, including a 13-year-old daughter. Patch is not naming her to protect her identity.
"How does this happen? He told everyone during that hearing in 2008 that he would re-offend, that he would come after me and come after my daughter," she said.
The woman was not at that hearing, she told Patch, but said her sister got the information from a colleague who served as a juror during Fink's 2008 hearing.
The woman was 15 in 1987 when Fink attacked her. He was convicted of that assault, and served an 18-month prison sentence. He was charged with another sex crime in 1993 — this time eight counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child. He pleaded guilty to two of those charges and was again sent to prison, this time for seven years.
In 2006, the state filed a sexually violent person petition — known as a chapter 980 petition, named after the statute governing these actions — to keep Fink incarcerated past the end of his sentence. That was granted in 2008, and Fink has been at the Sand Ridge ever since. He has, though, been filing petitions for discharge almost annually, as is his right under the law.
In December, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz reviewed Fink's treatment records and ordered him into supervised release. He was supposed to move to 918 Lathrop Ave. later this month.
Fink's victim from 1987 said the first she heard of Fink's release was through Facebook, even though the courts and the victim's advocacy group all have her contact information.
"They're supposed to contact victims when their attacker gets out of jail, but the first I knew of any of this was through Facebook," she said. "Everyone I talked to apologized and said they didn't know why I wasn't called."
Patch called DHS to ask about the placement and received Smith's email about having to find a new location for Fink.
The woman is relieved.
"This is very good news," she told Patch on Wednesday. "I feel so much better."
On Dec. 14, Gasiorkiewicz signed off on an agreement for supervised release. Conditions of Fink's release include having to wear two monitoring bracelets, not having any sexually explicit material in his possession at any time, and not having access to any sexually explicit online content as well.
Attorney Says Location Was 'Ideal'
Defense attorney Robert Peterson, who represents Fink and participates in 980 hearings for other defendants all over the state, said the location on Lathrop Avenue is one of the more ideal placement scenarios he has seen.
"The Department of Human Services uses a long list of criteria to determine where to place offenders who are released," he explained. "The house on Lathrop is ideal because it's a quiet, residential neighborhood that isn't close to malls or playgrounds. Being close to an elementary school is worrisome for neighbors, of course, but younger children are not Mr. Fink's crime profile."
Supervised release and discharge are two very different things, Peterson continued. Fink's release means he will be on house arrest, so he will live alone in the house and he will not be able to leave the building unless he is chaperoned with one-on-one supervision.
When Fink's supervised release moves forward after a new location is found, he will wear two bracelets: one that signals proximity (like leaving the house) and a GPS unit that tells his case agent and other law enforcement officers where he is at all times.
"You can't get a higher level of supervision than this," Peterson said.
Fink is scheduled to have review hearing on Feb. 14 before Gasiorkiewicz. Court records do not indicate the reason for the hearing or who initiated it.
Patch has calls into both the Racine County District Attorney and the state Attorney General's office. We will update this story when we hear back from them.