While passing the Caltrain station earlier this week, one of the men we'd interviewed for our story on homeless sex offenders last year flagged us down. He'd said no one had seen Thomas Craig, another one of our sources in the story, for several weeks. Now the Ford Windstar that Craig slept in parked on Bluxome Street had been gathering parking tickets, and our informant speculated the worst: "I think he died in there. I told the fire department, but they just laughed it off."
The consequences of Jessica's Law have been sinister to Craig and others to say the least: Since the law mandates that sex offenders must live 2,000 feet away from a park or school, in San Francisco, their only option is to not have a residence at all. The parole department currently mandates that they remain homeless.
While the city mulls a change
to how the law is enforced locally, the paroled offenders
continue to sleep in vans parked in lots and alleys, in homeless drop-in
centers, or in doorways. Law enforcement experts say the instability
makes it more likely the sex offenders will re-offend
. In Craig's case, he had been convicted of forced oral copulation with a minor, though he always insisted he'd been framed. He did tell us about how the sex offenders were no longer allowed to enter a program for parolees at Walden House
since it was too close to a school.
The complications from Jessica's Law abound. Yet a man dying
inside his van and lying undiscovered for weeks seemed to be taking the
macabre circumstances up a notch.
We checked on the minivan various times this week and, yep, it had been
pegged with three different tickets for parking during street cleaning
since mid-November. On Wednesday, a pink notice that the city was going to
tow the van appeared. The sheets that Craig usually hung inside for a modicum of privacy were still up. We knocked and there was no answer. The county jail said he wasn't in custody, and the medical examiner said they had no
record of him.
Finally today, we met our informant at the Caltrain station again. "He died." But not in the van.
call to the medical examiner cleared things up: Craig had checked into
St. Francis Hospital on Nov. 14, saying he had lung cancer. His
condition declined at the hospital until he died at 2 p.m. on Nov. 18, likely due to multiple organ failure from cancer.
This will be the third person made homeless by Jessica's Law to die that SF Weekly
has learned of this year. First, Nicolas Chaykovsky died
in February from a heart attack, with his case manager speculating it
was living on the streets that did him in. Faamamalu Casey died of a
heart attack on May 27, according to the medical examiner.
van, meanwhile, is still slated to be towed. Apparently a handful of the
homeless guys stored their stuff in there. Since no one has a key,
they're all going to lose their possessions now. "Can't inherit the car," our
informant, who sleeps under a nearby highway, said with a wry chuckle. "He's
gone. I hate to say it."