Violent sex offenders live near Portage Co. community center, spotlighting placement challenges

By Erin Beu

ROSHOLT - People in small, rural towns wonder why they keep getting offenders from other counties.

State law requires violent sex offenders to return to the county where they were convicted after they are released from prison.

However, Jason Staves and Peter Yogerst two registered sex offenders who are classified as sexually violent are living in the same building in Rosholt, but neither is from Portage County.

Their house is just across the street from the Central Wisconsin Electric cooperative.

However, this business serves as a community center for the people of Portage County, where children can often be seen playing.

A Chippewa County judge needed a residence to place Staves, but couldn't find appropriate housing in Chippewa County.

Therefore, he placed him in Portage County, a county where Staves never lived before or offended in.

A Washington County judge did the exact same thing with Yogerst.

"We still think those people are very dangerous," said Portage County District Attorney Louis Molepske.

Molepske says that same house was already deemed unfit by a Portage County judge for Charles Anderson, a sexually violent person actually from Portage County.

"That tells me the law really is not fair," said State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point).

Shankland says Anderson is still being held in custody in a treatment facility because officials can't find an appropriate residence.

The Portage County judge who dealt with Anderson's case knew this house was next door to the town's community center, even though it is technically a business.

The Portage County judge was able to turn Anderson away due to a 2016 amendment of a Wisconsin Law. Wisconsin Legislature Act 156 severely limits where a sexually violent person can live.

The list of restrictions is so strict that sexually violent persons who lived in cities and larger towns often can't find any appropriate housing upon their release.

"People in urban areas keep getting sent to rural areas because it's easier to meet the placement standards," said Shankland.

Therefore, when the Chippewa County and Washington County judges needed a residence for their two sexually violent persons, they placed them just outside of Rosholt.

The judges did not realize the business across the street acts as the town's community center.

"The Portage County judge knew what he was doing because he knew the area but the other two judges did not," said Shankland.

"They did not consider that business. They didn't even walk across the street to see what was there," said Molepske.

Neighbors in the area want answers as to why a residence that was already labeled inappropriate to house a sexually violent person is now home to two outside offenders.

"I'm concerned for my family's safety and for my neighbor's safety," said Bill Wolosek, who lives less than half a mile from Staves and Yogerst.

Wolosek says rural towns shouldn't be treated as dumping grounds for criminals and sex offenders.

"They should not necessarily be able to turn us into nothing but a peasant that they can do whatever they want to," said Wolosek.

"Worst part is, once they are placed there you can't do anything about it," said Shankland.

Mike Wade is the President and CEO of the Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative and the community center. He wasn't even notified until after the men were placed across the street.

"To us, it just doesn't make a lot of sense," said Wade.

Shankland says Act 156 has caused problems like this all over Wisconsin.

"I think it's a mistake to have the state make all the decisions because they don't live in the communities they are making the placements," said Shankland.

Since the placement of Staves and Yogerst, Shankland teamed up with Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) to insert a proposal in the state's budget bill to give counties more flexibility in housing their offenders.

It would also cut off the option of sending offenders to other counties.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 13 to 3 in favor of the proposal.

We will likely find out if it passes as part of the full budget later this month.