The second woman in the U.S. determined to be a sexually violent predator and the first female to be civilly committed to McNeil Island was released to Spokane last month.
Laura F. McCollum, 62, who was convicted of raping a Tacoma infant in 1990 and has admitted to having as many as 15 victims, now lives on the 1400 block of North Lincoln Street.
Her unconditional release came after Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office petitioned the Pierce County Superior Court to dismiss her sexually violent predator classification in March because multiple mental health experts could not prove she was likely to reoffend.
The court’s decision to release McCollum was a shock to Sylvia Peterson, who believes she should never have been released after numerous interviews with the sex offender that informed her 2014 book “Laura and Me.”
“That is still my opinion,” Peterson told The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday.
In July, McCollum reported watching the movements of a young girl and fantasizing about having sex with her while living in a Lakewood apartment under strict supervision, according to court documents.
“That’s a dangerous pedophile,” Peterson said. “If she would do that under strict conditions, she would certainly do that under no conditions.”
McCollum, originally from Tennessee, was removed from her parents’ home at 2 years old and reported “extreme abuse” by her foster parents, according to court documents. At age 16 she gave birth to a boy who was the product of rape by her foster father.
She arrived in Washington in 1985, when she was in in her late 20s, according to court documents.
Police arrested McCollum in March 1990 after she admitted to her therapist that she had repeatedly sexually abused an infant girl she was babysitting in Tacoma during the latter half of the 1980s, according to court documents. The girl was between 18 months and 3 years old during the abuse.
After McCollum’s initial 68-month prison sentence, a Pierce County Superior Court judge determined she was a sexually violent predator and had her civilly committed in 1997, according to court documents.
McCollum spent several more years at Washington’s women prison before she was committed to McNeil Island’s Special Commitment Center in 2004, according to court documents. McCollum was in total confinement and the lone occupant of her unit for the vast majority of the last 15-plus years.
During treatment, she admitted to abusing 14 children as an adult, often by targeting single mothers and parents who abused drugs, according to court documents. She also reported victimizing more than 100 other children when she was a child herself in the foster system.
McCollum began her transition back into society in June when she was released to an apartment near 5516 Detroit Ave. Southwest in Lakewood under strict supervision, according to court documents.
She was still mandated to receive mental health treatment for sex offenders and wasn’t allowed to leave her residence without a court-approved chaperone and a GPS on her person.
But in July McCollum reported noticing a girl around age 6 in her neighborhood who she then began watching from her porch and through windows, according to court documents. She said she fantasized about having sex with the girl.
Some reports include a claim from McCollum that she aged the girl to adulthood in her fantasies.
McCollum was arrested July 18 and returned to McNeil Island due to concerns about the child and other minor violations of her release conditions, according to court documents. She was released to Lakewood under supervision again in mid-October, then returned to McNeil Island in January, after she violated her release conditions.
On April 1, her therapist wrote in a report that the state Department of Corrections did not support placing McCollum back in Lakewood and that her unconditional release was imminent.
The psychologist who interviewed McCollum in February ahead of a trial for her release determined she still suffered from pedophilic disorder but could not say with certainty that she was likely to abuse a child again, according to court documents. He wrote there was no evidence McCollum experienced a major lapse when watching the child in June and she showed progress by not becoming physically aroused.
Two mental health experts who performed annual reviews of McCollum’s case in 2018 and 2019 also said she did not meet the definition of a sexually violent predator but had problems regulating her own behavior.
“In the absence of any expert report concluding to a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that Ms. McCollum continues to meet criteria for commitment, the State cannot make this showing at the show cause or trial stage,” the state attorney general’s office wrote in court documents. “As such, the petition must be dismissed.”
McCollum told a psychologist in February that she wanted to move to Spokane because her attorney, Andrew Morrison, and psychiatrist, Julie Crest, live in the region, according to court documents. She also said she wanted to gain a part-time job as a night shift janitor and continue sex offender treatment with Crest.
“While I have deep concerns regarding Ms. McCollum’s health, safety and welfare, as well as the welfare of the community should she embark on the proposed unconditional release, those concerns cannot supersede (state law),” the psychologist, Brian Judd, concluded in March, according to court documents.
Peterson, the author who interviewed McCollum dozens of times for her book, said it’s not if she reoffends – it’s when.
“Unfortunately there’s going to be at least one more victim between now and then,” Peterson said. “People don’t look at a woman and think she’s going to molest their children.”
McCollum registered as a sex offender with the the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office on April 14 and was classified as a level three offender, the most likely to abuse again.
Neither the sheriff’s office nor the Spokane Police Department has issued a public notice of McCollum’s release.
“I think people in Spokane need to know that this is a high-risk person,” Peterson said.
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