Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Mullen, Sex Offender Vigilante

Lost Opportunity to Commit

Under Washington's Community Protection Act, authorities had the legal right to commit Duncan to its sex predator complex on McNeil Island if he met the legal definition of a violent sexual predator.

His therapist, Dr. Carla van Dam, came to a remarkable conclusion: based on a complicated formula, she judged that Duncan had a three-in-five chance of re-offending. Yet, she said, there was "insufficient evidence" to justify civil commitment.

"This is a complex case that generates more questions than it answers," she wrote.

One complicating factor was the various conflicting stories that Duncan had given about his sexual background while in the mental facility just after his original conviction.

He claimed he was molested as an 8-year-old and had his first sexual experiences, both homosexual and heterosexual, at 12. He claimed that at age 15 he forced a 9-year-old to have sex at gunpoint, and he said when he was 16 he tied up six boys, ages 6 through 10, and forced them to have sex. He also charged incest against family members.

But Duncan later recanted most of the stories. He said he made them up to draw pity and avoid prison.

"All versions suggested a history where he was surrounded by sexual improprieties," van Dam wrote, adding Duncan had a "chaotic childhood fraught with sexually inappropriate contact."

And while she couldn't recommend civil commitment, van Dam was not confident about the long-term prospects for Duncan, whom she portrayed as a skilled liar and manipulator.

"Concerns about his ability to refrain from sexually violent behavior remain," Van Dam pointedly wrote. She noted Duncan's "longstanding history of sexually deviant behavior and sexual excitement he associates with aggression and violence."

He would prove her right.

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