Sex offender's placement surprises small town

By Chris Mueller, Stevens Point Journal

ALBAN - Peter Yogerst lives in a house near the Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, a sprawling industrial-style building along a highway in the rural Portage County town of Alban.

He didn’t choose the house, and the people of Alban didn't choose him as a neighbor. Yogerst is a recently released sex offender who was placed in rural Portage County by a judge 120 miles away in West Bend.

Yogerst, 41, isn’t from Portage County. Until recently, he was being held in Mauston at a state-run treatment facility for sexually violent offenders. He was involuntarily committed to the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center after he was convicted in May 1995 of second-degree sexual assault and intimidating a witness. He forced his way into a home in Washington County and sexually assaulted a woman he knew, according to a news release from the Portage County Sheriff’s Office. Yogerst declined to be interviewed for this story.

He was released in early January to the home in rural Portage County with the approval of Washington County Judge James Muehlbauer. Nobody in Portage County in a position to do anything about the situation knew about Yogerst's relocation until it was too late. A few residents of the town of Alban reached out to state Rep. Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point, who helped organize a community meeting on Jan. 5 to talk about Yogerst’s release.

“They never once had a voice,” Shankland said of the residents in Alban, a community of fewer than 900 people. “They found out about this after the fact.”

Yogerst is living in the community under intense supervision. He isn't allowed to go anywhere by himself and is visited three or four times a day by a supervisor, according to Shaun Morrow, who works for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in Stevens Point. His location is tracked in real time using a GPS monitor.

“We’ll know immediately if he leaves his house,” Morrow said. “We’ll know as soon as he leaves.”

Yogerst is living in the community under intense supervision. He isn't allowed to go anywhere by himself and is visited three or four times a day by a supervisor, according to Shaun Morrow, who works for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in Stevens Point. His location is tracked in real time using a GPS monitor.

“We’ll know immediately if he leaves his house,” Morrow said. “We’ll know as soon as he leaves.”

Shankland hopes legislation can fix that problem, too. She wants to make sure residents are at least notified before a decision is made to place a sexually violent offender in any community.

The question many residents in the town of Alban have now is whether they can expect to have more sexually violent offenders sent to their community, Kruzicki said. A judge in Chippewa County is already set to consider in February whether another sexually violent offender, 42-year-old Jason Staves, should be placed in the same place as Yogerst.

"The community is scared," Kruzicki said. "Is it going to be a revolving door in the future?"

Staves was convicted of various sexual assault charges for incidents involving multiple children, according to court documents. He unsuccessfully petitioned for supervised release multiple times from 2000 to 2009.

The state Department of Health Services doesn't put more than two sexually violent offenders on supervised release in the same location, said Miller, the department's spokeswoman.

The number of sexually violent offenders released under supervision who went on to commit new sex crimes is relatively small, but it has happened. Out of 164 people granted supervised release since the program started in 1994, three have been convicted of new sex crimes, Miller said. Other sexually violent offenders might have been returned to custody for violating rules of their supervision or being convicted of something that wasn’t a sex crime.