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Tense emotions at packed meeting over sex offender

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein
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See also: Law does not restrict some offenders' residency Angry, frightened and frustrated, hundreds of Roseville residents packed into a city gymnasium Wednesday night to ask law-enforcement officials how they can keep their neighborhood safe following the recent arrival of a violent sex offender and convicted murderer. The mood was tense and at times combative following news that Charles Michael Etchison, a multiple sex offender and convicted killer, had moved into the Marblethorpe Drive area a week ago. Police distributed fliers in the area and issued a city-wide bulletin notifying residents about Etchison’s arrival Tuesday. “We made the notification because we believe an informed public is a safe public,” Roseville Police Chief Mike Blair told the crowd, assembled inside the Roseville Sports Center. But residents said it was hard to feel safe knowing their new neighbor’s rap sheet. At 17, Etchison was convicted of the murdering a woman with a meat cleaver whom he also sexually assaulted, according to published reports, serving 2½ years in the California Youth Authority. In 1978, Etchison was convicted in San Mateo County of sexually assaulting a minor; a few years after his release, he was again convicted in San Mateo County of sexually assaulting three women in a drive-in movie theater restroom. In each crime Etchison forced the women to orally copulate him, police said. He was released from prison in 2006 and moved to Roseville after marrying, police said. The announcement was a first for the Roseville Police Department, made under the public disclosure provision of Megan’s Law. “Because of Mr. Etchison’s past criminal history, the fact that his victims were strangers, and the distance he traveled to meet his victims, we felt it was necessary to make a city-wide notification,” Blair said. On Wednesday, residents expressed outrage that Etchinson could be allowed to live so close to local schools and parks. “It’s soccer season – our parks are in maximum use,” said resident John Vertido, a Roseville parks commissioner who urged police to step up their outreach at local parks. Blair explained Etchison, who is not on parole, faces no restrictions on residency or movement. That prompted resident Ken Waterhouse to propose the city investigate adopting a citywide ordinance limiting where sex offenders could reside. “We really have to watch out for someone with violent behavior on top of the sexual assault,” he said. “It’s his right not life here unfortunately but our right to restrict where he goes.” Attendees also clamored for information on how to keep their children safe. Blair said it’s a matter of awareness and education. “Talk to your kids about what a sexual assault is, that it’s OK to walk away from strangers; it’s OK not to trust everybody,” he said. But the atmosphere inside the gym turned heated as supporters of Etchison made the case that he was a changed man who no longer presented a threat. Etchison, who in several interviews with news outlets Tuesday and Wednesday said he was sorry for his past actions, has found God and was no longer a threat, was not present at the meeting. “I understand your concerns, but he is a new creation in Christ,” said Tracy Johnstone, who said she had befriended Etchison through her church, Jordan Crossing Ministries, two years ago. The statement was met with a cascade of catcalls. “I trust him with my 16-year-old daughter,” she said later. When another supporter spoke up, a nearby attendee rose and verbally challenged him, and the meeting briefly threatened to devolve. “I want to keep this meeting orderly,” Blair said. Dave Kee, who lives in the Marblethorpe neighborhood – an area of tidy single-family homes near Quail Glen and Blue Oaks elementary schools – felt terrified to receive the flier on his doorstep Tuesday. He was one of many who still felt powerless after Wednesday night’s meeting. Still, he said, “I think it’s good to make sure they get the word out, get it out there in a public forum.” Police were careful on Wednesday to note information on Etchison is intended to protect the public, and should not be used to intimidate or harass. Officials urged residents to check the Megan’s Law Web site at www.meganslaw.ca.gov for information on protecting themselves and children from sexual assault. contact the writer: nathand@goldcountrymedia.com This story was posted 10:27 p.m. Wednesday