Curry County Sheriff John Ward obtained a waiver Thursday to send Gary Caughey, a high-risk sex offender, to an unnamed county in northern Oregon rather than Curry County as originally planned.
Ward was notified April 5 that Caughey would be released from prison after serving a 23-year sentence and returned to Curry County — and citizens and city police immediately expressed their concern because the county has limited law enforcement presence to monitor the man.
Curry County’s Parole and Probation director contacted the state Parole Board addressing the concerns and asked for a waiver to another county with have more resources for Caughey.
Ward initially thought he might not be able to have Caughey transferred.
“No one’s going to want to accept him,” Ward said earlier this month. “All I can do is supervise him.”
He felt obligated to notify the community Caughey was returning, “not to increase fear,” Ward said. “It is our belief that an informed public is a safer public.”
Caughey, 77, who was convicted on first-degree rape and second-degree kidnapping charges in 1973 and a first-degree kidnapping charge in 1987, will be on parole upon his release April 23 until March 19, 2023.
Caughey was released once in 2016 — much to community uproar — but rearrested for violating the terms of his parole, a Curry Coastal Pilot article reads. After serving 23 years for kidnapping a 17-year-old girl in Josephine County, Department of Corrections officials deemed he was not likely to offend again.
Then-Sheriff John Bishop unsuccessfully argued otherwise.
And Caughey wrote a letter to the editor for the community, saying: “I understand, accept and empathize with the community’s concern … Given my past, if I were in your shoes, I would probably think and feel much the same as you folks. And the same as you, I wish to live in a safe community.
“After 24 years in prison, and after extensive treatment, a lot of soul searching and a dedicated effort to rehabilitate, I am not a threat or danger to anyone. I will do whatever it takes to be a productive member of society, to whatever extent the communities permit.
“People can change, people do change.”
He was re-arrested shortly thereafter with letters he’d written to a minor in the Philippines — a violation of his parole. He and the teenager had been writing each other for six years.
“The letters prove that Caughey is a predatory sex offender and should never have been released from prison,” Bishop said.
Caughey’s criminal history dates back to 1959 when, at 18, he was convicted of stealing a vehicle. In 1971, he was convicted of assault and battery of a 17-year-old girl in Lane County.
In 1976, Caughey escaped from the Oregon State Hospital and traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was convicted of abducting two children from a parking lot, tying one to a tree and choking the other.
After serving an eight-year prison term in Nebraska, Caughey was returned to Oregon State Penitentiary to finish out his sentence for the 1973 conviction.
He was paroled in July 1986, and the same day he was released from prison, he abducted a girl at knifepoint, forcing her into his vehicle. The girl escaped unharmed; Caughey was arrested later during a routine traffic stop.
Conditions of his parole now are that he is not to have any contact with minors, not go where children congregate, participate in an alcohol and drug treatment program, attend a sex offender program and abide by a curfew. He is also required to register with the state police as a sex offender.