SEATTLE — It is a crime as cold and calculated as they come and one that stunned the communities of West Seattle and Kitsap County, and has haunted the victim for more than 30 years.
It was 1982, just five days before Christmas. School had just gotten out and a 14-year-old girl was waiting to take the city bus to the orthodontist. State ferry worker Donald Hooper had just finished his shift.
“He had parked past me a quarter of a block and walked behind me so I wasn’t paying any attention,” Hooper’s victim said by phone recently for this report. “Then he grabbed my arm and showed me his gun under his jacket and said, ‘Get in the car or I’m going to kill you.’”
Hooper shoved her in the front seat, and once he got to a more secluded area, pulled over, gagged her and then used plastic zip ties to bind her wrists together before shoving her into the trunk.
Hooper then traveled north on Highway 99 to Edmonds, boarded the ferry to Kingston and drove to a dirt road, where he violently raped her.
Hooper wasn’t done yet. As if all of that wasn’t terrifying enough, he then drove her to nearby Indianola and walked her down the end of a wooden pier.
“I remember it being a really long walk down there,” the victim said. “I kept telling him I couldn’t swim and not to throw me in. You could see the gun on him. I didn’t want to get shot and thrown in the water.”
He didn’t shoot her, but pushed her into the water.
The victim was, in fact, a strong swimmer, and even though her arms were still bound together, she was able to make it out of the water and get to a nearby home for help.
“The presence of mind and courage of a kid like that, it gave me chills when I was told about it,” Roe said.
Police caught Hooper that night and he was sentenced to life in prison. Earlier this year, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo found out the state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board was going to let Hooper out on parole into his community.
“We have lots of sex offenders released into our community, in fact more than 400 of them now. However, his record and the fact he was being released was quite shocking,” said Elfo.
The sheriff immediately took a look at Hooper’s prison file. A 2010 evaluation showed Hooper was still considered a violent risk to the community and that the “possibility of very serious psychological and/or physical harm, if not lethality, would be considerable.”
“That really alarmed me, and he should not be released anywhere in the state of Washington,” Elfo said.
Elfo sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee and to DOC Secretary Bernie Warner. They decided not to allow Hooper to move to Whatcom County.
Less than two weeks ago, however, he was released instead to Snohomish County.
“My immediate thought was, he committed a crime here. Where’s that victim?” Roe said.
In November 1982, Hooper raped another teenage girl, a case that was eventually overturned on appeal but a crime he admitted to in prison.
The Marysville halfway house where Hooper was first moved is within walking distance of that victim.
“When she was told that this guy had been dropped on her doorstep, you can imagine what a setback that was for her,” Roe said. “She started crying. Her attitude at that point was that she was going to feel like a prisoner in her own house and she had the detective escort her to her own mailbox to get the mail and can you blame her?”
At the Marysville halfway house, Jim, another registered sex offender who lives there, said Hooper wasn’t there that day, but members of the Snohomish County Violent Offender Task Force came by, and confirmed he was hiding in a garage behind the home.
“I know he did something pretty bad many years ago,” said Jim. “He’s done his time and I believe he’s learned his lesson and I don’t believe he is a threat to the community at this point.”
Parents who live in a nearby subdivision aren’t convinced.
“To me, it just seems wrong we’re going to allow someone who’s deemed a high risk by the authorities to be back out in the neighborhoods, who’s likely to re-offend. It just seems like we’re asking for it, almost,” said mother Jessica Kohler.
Roe questions why the DOC made this decision in the first place.
“In my opinion, sometimes even though his life sentence is from way back then, it ought to be a life sentence. There is a certain subset of people that I wouldn’t let out,” Roe said.
The woman terrorized and nearly killed by Hooper so many years ago is convinced he could strike again.
“I just know he’ll end up re-offending. I think he should be back in jail where he belongs before he hurts someone else,” the victim said.
As the Department of Corrections learned we were investigating this story, Roe alerted them about Hooper’s victim living so close to that halfway house. Roe, the Snohomish County sheriff and DOC officials met on Friday, July 26, and three days later decided to move Hooper to Seattle.
He is in a work-release facility near 8th and Cherry and is on GPS monitoring, but it is only a temporary situation until DOC can figure out where to move him next.
That brings up a bigger question of where to house sex offenders once they are released from prison. It has been a contentious issue in the state and one we delve into Thursday night on Q13 FOX News at 10 p.m.