Sexually violent predator from SoCal could be released in the Central Valley

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Video of convicted sex offender Ross Wollschlager at the Ventura County Superior Court as residents and officials from San Bernardino fought to keep him from being released into the community of Joshua Tree last week.

The judge agreed it was not a good fit, but eight other counties are still in the running, including Fresno, Madera, and Merced.

"Within Merced County, 43 different locations have been investigated as possible placement sites for Mr. Wollshalger," said Merced County District Attorney Kimberly Lewis.

Lewis says a company called Liberty Health Care researched those areas and eliminated all but three.

"40 are not compliant with Jessica's Law, which requires the placement to be greater than 2,000 feet from a school or park where children frequently visit," Lewis said.

Wollschlager was convicted in 1983 on two counts of rape. He was released on parole in 1987, and two years later, he snuck into a home and sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in her bed.

The crimes were all committed in Ventura County, where officials later went through a special hearing to have him declared a sexually violent predator.

"The jury found that there was a serious and well-founded risk that Mr. Wollschalger would re-offend if he were released from prison and based on that, he was designated a sexually violent predator," Lewis told Action News. "He was committed to the California State Hospitals for treatment."

The 56-year-old is now being held at Coalinga State Hospital, but officials there have determined he should be released. Sheriff Vern Warnke believes Wollschlager would be a danger to residents and a burden on law enforcement.

"There is no place that's going to be a good fit for this guy. I definitely don't want him in this county, and the citizens of this county deserve a lot better than to have someone who's been convicted out of another county placed into this county," Warnke said.

A hearing will take place in Ventura County on Wednesday, so the Merced County District Attorney's Office is asking residents to email their comments to Travis.Colby@countyofmerced.com by Tuesday. Kimberly Lewis says the hearing this week is not expected to result in a final decision, and her office will continue to keep the community updated.

Action News reached out to the district attorney's offices in Fresno and Madera Monday afternoon but have not yet heard if there is a process for resident feedback there.
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