Convicted rapist Mitch Gaff is moving to Seattle
Mitch Gaff, convicted in 1985 of raping two teenage Everett sisters and incarcerated on McNeil Island in Puget Sound since then, is moving to a less-restrictive halfway house in Seattle's Sodo district.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mitch Gaff, convicted in 1985 of raping two teenage Everett sisters and incarcerated on McNeil Island in Puget Sound since then, is moving to Seattle.
In Snohomish County Superior Court today, it was agreed that Gaff, 48, will be moved from the state's Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island to a less-restrictive halfway house in Seattle's Sodo district that is run by the state Department of Social and Health Services.
Authorities say Gaff not only has been a nearly trouble-free inmate but also has wholeheartedly participated in mental-health treatment.
Labeled a "sexual sadist" by therapists and long called manipulative by prosecutors, today's hearing was the third time Gaff had appeared in court with the hope of being released back into society.
But unlike 1995 and 2000, when Gaff's fate was put before two Everett juries who voted to commit him to treatment, Deputy Prosecutor Paul Stern agreed to his release to a less-restrictive treatment facility.
"We have negotiated a complex resolution to a case that has been pending in the courts for 11 years," Stern said. "I believe we have reached a resolution that recognizes Mr. Gaff's best interests and the community's best interests."
Henry Richards, superintendent of the center on McNeil Island, agreed.
"This is an appropriate step for him," Richards said. "He's essentially done everything that's requested of him."
Gaff was on probation for assault and burglary when in 1984 he walked into an Everett home and bound, gagged and raped two girls. He tortured the sisters, ages 14 and 16, for 2½ hours until one struggled free, the cord of a hair dryer still wrapped around her neck.
Before that, Gaff told jurors during his civil-commitment trial in 2000, he had raped two high-school-aged girls passed out at a party. There was also the woman he'd attacked in the back seat of his car, he told the jurors. And there was the teenage girl sexually assaulted on her way to school and one rape Gaff said he couldn't quite remember.
Gaff told the jurors how one woman foiled his plans to rape her in 1979. That attempt resulted in the assault and burglary convictions.
Since moving to McNeil Island, Gaff has participated in cognitive behavioral sex-offender treatment, Richards said. Gaff is believed to understand why he raped and takes his relapse potential seriously. Once moved to the Sodo house, he will continue to work with therapists, Richards said.
"He's a highly motivated person," Richards said "If given a treatment-related task, he'll put a lot of energy into getting that done."
Gaff becomes the second sexually violent predator to be moved into the state-of-the art halfway house. Earlier this year, a King County judge agreed to let Joseph Aqui, a convicted burglar and rapist, leave McNeil Island and move into the home.
The Sodo halfway house, which is estimated to cost the state about $500,000 per resident, was built in response to a federal-court ruling that ordered DSHS to help reintegrate residents of the McNeil Island center into society.
The Sodo facility features surveillance cameras, Global Positioning System tracking bracelets, security and a Seattle police officer parked in front of the building.
"It's very different than a release, at large, to the community," Richards said.
Gaff is one of the longest-serving residents of the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island, which opened in 1990, Richards said.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com
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