Frustrated Orange County authorities, unable to stop Wednesday’s release of a man who raped 7- and 8-year-old girls in the early 1980s, warned Tustin and Santa Ana residents today and vowed to push for laws to make it harder for sexually violent predators to get paroled.
Lawrence Joseph Brown, 52, who was convicted in 1985 of sexually assaulting two young girls, is scheduled to be released from Chino State Prison Wednesday.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas held a news conference with Santa Ana police Chief Paul Walters, Tustin police Chief Scott Jordan and Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, to warn residents of Tustin and Santa Ana where Brown may live.
They also criticized the state Department of Mental Health for not working with authorities to declare Brown a sexually violent predator. That designation would send Brown to a state mental institution, where he could be held indefinitely.
A jury found Brown guilty Feb. 15, 1985, of two felony counts of kidnapping and five felony counts of forcible sex crimes against a child. He was sentenced to 49 years in prison. After serving 25 years of the sentence, Brown was eligible for parole and was released from prison April 27 to May 6, but was returned to prison for failing to charge a GPS device, Rackauckas said.
While Brown was free, he lived with his girlfriend at 13071 Red Hill Ave. in Tustin about 350 yards from a school, Rackauckas said.
He said his office repeatedly appealed to the state Department of Mental Health to let prosecutors try to get Brown designated a sexually violent predator. But he said his prosecutors were rebuffed.
“Is the public OK with the fact that, unless the Department of Mental Health forwards a recommendation, the District Attorney is legally prohibited from filing an SVP petition against Brown to keep him off of our streets?” Rackauckas said.
State psychiatric experts did not agree that Brown is a sexually violent predator.
The Department of Mental Health could decide to let Orange County prosecutors provide them with more information, Rackauckas said.
“The Department of Mental Health conduct their sessions in secret,” Rackaukas said.“We have no right to review or appeal their nonsensical decisions, no ability to present relevant information, no indication that they bothered to review the information we did carefully provide to them. You would expect these types of secretive practices in North Korea, not here.”
Rackauckas said he could not fathom the decision, because Brown repeatedly denied the crimes and asked prosecutors to review his case again last year.
Brown’s semen was genetically matched to some found on one of the victim’s underwear, Rackaukas said, adding that the DNA evidence was not available to jurors in 1985.
Rackauckas blasted prison officials for failing to alert law enforcement about Brown’s release.
Correa said his staff has been working on legislation and expects to introduce a bill for a vote in December.
Jordan said Tustin police will blanket the neighborhood where Brown’s girlfriend lives with fliers containing an image of Brown and notice of his impending release.
“People should know this is not a good man and to run if you see him,” Jordan said.
Walters said Brown is expected to try to live in Irvine, Tustin or Santa Ana.
Brown abducted an 8-year-old girl playing hide-and-seek with her friends near her Santa Ana home April 19, 1983, and forced her to orally copulate him before raping her.
On Oct. 5 that same year, Brown abducted a 7-year-old girl as she walked to school in Santa Ana. He dragged the girl, a recent immigrant from Cambodia, into his red van where he anally raped her and forced her to orally copulate him. Brown threatened the girl with a knife and drove her to a cemetery and told her she would be buried there if she told anyone.