Crime and Courts

Poway will be sex predator's new home if judge agrees with state hospital officials

An Aug. 9 court hearing has been scheduled regarding the Poway placement, during which the public typically makes comments

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State hospital officials have recommended placing a man designated as a sexually violent predator into a home in Poway, it was announced Monday.

Merle Wade Wakefield, 67, has been recommended by the California Department of State Hospitals for placement at a home located at 15720 Sycamore Canyon Road.

Wakefield was convicted of sexual offenses in 1981 and 1990 and sentenced to state prison, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

Wakefield is classified as a sexually violent predator, a designation for those convicted of sexually violent offenses and diagnosed with a mental disorder that makes a person likely to re-offend.

After serving their prison sentences, SVPs undergo treatment at state hospitals, but may also petition courts to continue treatment in outpatient locations, where they are monitored via GPS, among other measures.

A family currently rents the property on Sycamore Canyon Road. It's a husband, a wife, three young daughters and a fourth on the way. NBC 7 spoke with them, and they said the landlord promised not to evict them, but they are in no hurry to share the place with Wakefield.

While the setting is more countryside, there are a number of single-family homes and ranches. Among them is the Ride Above Disability Therapeutic Riding Center for children with disabilities. It's located just a mile down the road.

Some Poway residents and local leaders are trying to keep Wakefield out of the community.

"It's heart breaking. You want to feel safe," Poway parent Michaela Lovasz told NBC 7.

Lovasz was a student at Garden Road Elementary School and taught dance classes there. It's located just two miles from where the California Department of State Hospitals is recommending Wakefield live. She also owns a home in Mount Helix and fought against Wakefield being placed there.

"Now I just feel like this nightmare is just following us," she said.

Jeff Grace and his group Keep RB Safe led the charge in September of 2021 to stop a landlord from leasing a home near him to house Douglas Badger, another man classified as a sexually violent predator. The group is organizing a new effort in Poway to block Wakefield’s placement.

"We don’t want that guy anywhere on the West Coast, not to mention Poway," Grace said. "We politely and professionally put a lot of pressure on the family."

Grace says that housing sexually violent predators is attractive to landlords because it usually pays three or four times the going market rate.

Mount Helix and Borrego Springs communities successfully blocked Wakefield from living in either one.

Liberty Healthcare, which operates the state's conditional release program for sexually violent predators, has said no SVPs have re-offended in the 21-year history of the program. While some SVPs have had their conditional releases terminated for violations of their release terms, Liberty officials say none of those violations were for new sexual offenses.

An Aug. 9 court hearing has been scheduled regarding the merits of the Poway placement location, during which members of the public are typically allowed to make comments to the court regarding the suitability of the placement. That 9 a.m. hearing will be held at the San Diego Central Courthouse before Superior Court Judge Yvonne Campos.

Public comments may also be submitted until July 22 to the SAFE Task Force, a regional law enforcement team that monitors and enforces sex offender registration laws in the county.

Comments can be submitted via email to; by calling 858-583-7238; or by mailing a statement to SVP Release/SAFE Task Force, 9425 Chesapeake Drive, San Diego, 92123.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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