At 9:30 a.m. on April 16, sophomore Ellie Britt noticed that there was something different about the run-down Winnebago recreational vehicle she had walked by on Nickerson Street for the past eight months.
“It was weird because the door was open facing the parking lot and there was some stuff on the grass beside it,” Britt said. “…I’d never seen any activity near it.”
An outside hitter on the SPU varsity volleyball team, Britt said that she is used to walking along the street on her way home from practices and games.
As she approached the RV, she decided to cut across the grass and walk alongside the Emerson parking lot. As she passed, Britt noticed a man sitting in the doorway of the RV with a pair of binoculars pointed at the windows lining the backside of the Emerson Residence Hall.
“The only thing I could see was the reflection off of his binoculars and his face,” Britt said. “When I realized what he was doing … I literally did a double-take and sprinted to my house.”
Arriving at her on-campus apartment in the Falcon Fourplex, Britt contacted Safety and Security and reported what she had seen. According to the Director of Safety and Security Mark Reid, OSS immediately reported the incident to the Seattle Police Department.
“Prior to the incident … no incidents had been reported to SPU previously for this suspect or his vehicle,” Reid said in an email. “There are a number of homeless people living in the vicinity of SPU, and OSS generally does not track or investigate them unless a concern has been identified.”
The safety alert, sent out by OSS via email the following morning, identified the man as Richard Roy Earl, a transient, Level 3 registered sex offender for voyeurism. It has not been confirmed whether Earl is the same person spotted by Britt behind the Emerson garages on April 16.
A Class C felony, voyeurism is when a person attempts to receive sexual gratification by watching people undress, engage in sexual acts or other private activities without their consent in a place where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Additionally, the alert said that the majority of level three sex offenders have prior sex crime convictions, have predatory characteristics and have often used violence in previous crimes.
“Sex offender levels are determined by taking into account several factors about the offender and the nature of his or her crime in order to determine possible risks to the general public,” the alert explained. “Level three sex offenders are deemed to pose a high risk to re-offend within the community at large.”
According to Reid, unless somebody sees the sex offender identified in the alert on campus or there are any additional incidents involving him off campus, OSS can’t charge or detain him.
Britt said that regardless of what OSS can do about the incident, students should stay informed and aware about it.
“[OSS] said that it’s a public street and that he didn’t physically touch anyone, so they really can’t do anything about it,” Britt said. “So many people leave their windows open and their lights on; nobody thinks about it… People need to know not to leave their windows open, just in case.”
Britt said that the RV she identified to OSS was light tan with orange stripes that wrapped around into the shape of a “W” on the rear. She also said that the windows were covered and prevented anyone from looking into the rear of the RV.
Last week, the RV moved from behind the Emerson parking garage to across the street from Tully’s Coffee.
On Dec. 30 last year, the sex offender identified in the alert was arrested on voyeurism charges following allegations that he was peering into a woman’s North Seattle apartment. After posting bond on a $10,000 bail at King County Jail, he was released. Before his sighting at SPU, he was last seen living near a Dick’s Drive-In in the Wallingford area.
According to city-data.com, there are currently more than 200 registered sex offenders living in the Seattle area. Three are reported to live within a two-mile radius of Seattle Pacific. Freshman Libby Combs said that she is surprised that there are people that live so close to campus that would engage in activities like voyeurism.
“It just seems too creepy,” Combs said. “It’s weird that this could easily happen and did happen to a dorm.”