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Originally published Friday, January 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Nicole Brodeur

Community waits for test results

To get to his job at a Eastside bagel shop, Joseph Aqui walks through the early-morning rain, past houses where toys are strewed across lawns, indicating that women may live inside.

Seattle Times staff columnist

To get to his job at a Eastside bagel shop, Joseph Aqui walks through the early-morning rain, past houses where toys are strewed across lawns, indicating that women may live inside.

These are Aqui's known triggers, the things that led him to commit more than two dozen rapes and attempted rapes, court records show.

For his crimes, Aqui was incarcerated, and served more than 20 years, most recently in the state's $1.7 million Secure Community Transition Facility in South Seattle.

Last month, Aqui was released to a quiet, poorly lit neighborhood in Lake Forest Park.

There, Aqui is living with a man who has been charged with trying to strangle his wife.

That man, 64, has pleaded not guilty to the domestic-violence assault charge in Lake Forest Park Municipal Court. An earlier charge in King County was dismissed. King County Superior Court also granted a protection order to the man's estranged wife last May. She described an incident where the man "strangled me to a point where I wasn't able to speak" during a fight.

As for Aqui? He admitted to his therapist in November that he has had "increased thoughts of sex and increased masturbation."

Aqui's release is considered a test case by the state.

"And we are the damned guinea pigs in the cage with these two men," said neighbor Penny Cole

So why risk so much by placing him with a man who is accused of violence against a woman?

"I would have thought that they would have gone to a different step," said Lake Forest Park Detective Sgt. Casey Krzyminski. "(Aqui) went from being never left alone to nothing."

Is it any wonder some of the neighbors have discussed buying guns and are reluctant to speak on the record?

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Knowing that, Krzyminski feels like he has his work cut out for him.

"I'm worried about having to protect him," he said. "There's a lot of fear. He's not a nice guy and I'm not happy he's here."

But the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is optimistic, according to spokesman Steve Williams.

"(Aqui) has been doing well," Williams said. "He's not getting into trouble. This is one of those cases where no news is good news."

The charge against Aqui's roommate is not an issue, Williams said.

"We knew about it, and the lawyers know about it," he said. "Apparently, it was not disqualifying."

Aqui's placement was approved Dec. 10 by King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas, and based on a report by the state Department of Corrections.

In that report, the DOC expressed concerns over the relocation, citing Aqui's triggers, but deferred to the court.

I called Kallas Thursday about her decision. Bailiff Renee James would only say there were still "discretionary issues to be resolved."

Aqui's housemate did not return my call. If it helps, the six convicted sex offenders released on less restrictive alternatives, like Aqui, are "doing fine," said Williams, at the DSHS.

"We've given them tools to succeed, now it's up to them."

In this case, seems like it's up to everyone else.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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About Nicole Brodeur
My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

UPDATE - 8:10 PM
Nicole Brodeur: Possibilities replace prisoners in island's future

Nicole Brodeur: She never lost moral compass

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