By DAVID COURTLAND
Pilot Staff Writer
The convicted rapist who killed Brookings resident Carole Zimmerman was never her neighbor as earlier reported by officials, Curry County Sheriff Kent Owens said Monday.
"There's a perception out there that Billy Prueitt was living (in Brookings)," said Owens, "and that if notification had been made she would not have been killed."
An oversight by law enforcement officials may have sparked the debate that followed in the wake of Zimmerman's murder, said Owens.
The sheriff, who was also under the impression Prueitt had been living next door to his victim, said he has learned the convicted rapist was actually living in Gold Beach with his mother.
Prueitt was visiting a girlfriend in Brookings at the time he killed Zimmerman, according to Owens and Prueitt's parole officer, Clint Laird.
"Mr. Prueitt had a girlfriend who he would visit and stay with periodically," said Laird.
The probation officer explained that short visits like the ones Prueitt made are not supervised and Prueitt was not required to report when he made such visits.
In fact, Laird said he was unaware of the girlfriend until she contacted Brookings police to ask about the terms of Prueitt's parole during the July 4 weekend.
Less than four weeks later Zimmerman was found dead in her Old County Road apartment, and a manhunt stretching over two states began for Prueitt, who fled in Zimmerman's car.
Prueitt, who had been on parole for two years after serving a 10-year prison sentence for rape, was later found dead in that car in Northern California.
Laird said it is still unclear what triggered Prueitt's actions, and that until just before the murder he had been a model parolee.
"As far as I know he was hitting everything right on the mark," said Laird, who had regular contact with Prueitt by telephone and letter.