Fundraiser for legal funds successful; local group aims to sue group home for sex offenders

Save Our Children — Enumclaw hosted “Fill The Bucket Fridays” and a a dinner auction at Headworks Brewery and raised $50,000.

A lawsuit against the operators of a transitional home for sex offenders could be coming down the pipeline.

The local grassroots organization Save Our Children — Enumclaw started a “$40 for $40K” fundraiser in early May to raise funds for an attorney that will target Rick Minnich, Jill Rockwell, and Garden House, located outside Enumclaw.

For those who haven’t kept up with the whirlwind of news, Garden House is a “less restrictive alternative” (LRA) transitional home for sex offenders leaving the total confinement McNeil Island Special Commitment Center. Its sole resident is Stevan Knapp, who moved in last January.

The issue not only outraged locals but county and state officials as well; King County Council member Reagan Dunn introduced legislation on the county level to require the state to alert communities when an LRA is proposed for their area (there is no such requirement currently), and Reps. Drew Stokesbary and Eric Robertson and Sen. Phil Fortunato brought various bills regarding LRAs to the state legislature (all died in committee).

It only took two months for the Save Our Children fundraiser to find success, and then some. During a June 22 auction at Headworks Brewery, the organization brought in $36,000; add in individual donations and the total rises to $50,000.

“Your generous donations to our legal fund will be utilized to cover the necessary legal fees in our relentless pursuit to shut down this facility. We are determined to hold the owners accountable for the violations they have committed and the threats they pose to our community,” said Save Our Children President Cathy Dahlquist at the auction. “Through the legal system, we will fight for justice, ensuring that the laws and rules designed to protect us are upheld and enforced.”

Dahlquist declined to reveal her group’s legal strategy, but a previous lawsuit could give some indication of what direction a case would go.

In 2019, Kitsap County attempted to close an LRA outside Poulsbo after resident outcry.

A Hearing Examiner initially declared the home to have violated zoning codes, but a judge later reversed the decision; the LRA continues to operate, and it’s unclear if the case has progressed since.

Save Our Children might also focus on what it sees as a “wanton disregard to community safety” and how LRA residents like Knapp have allegedly violated their conditions of release from McNeil Island with zero consequences.

According to emails sent to the Courier-Herald, it appears Knapp has committed at least three “minor” violations of his release agreement.

One March 1 email from a corrections specialist noted that Knapp “self-reported the violation to me in a timely manner and has taken steps to help himself avoid similar instances in the future,” but the email doesn’t contain details about what the violation was. “I do not believe this occurrences [sic] needs any formal sanction or Court action at this time.”

Another email from the same date noted that Knapp self-reported two violations, one being that he missed a “point to point contact” with the corrections specialist; Knapp is required to notify his release team when he leaves and arrives at formally approved areas.

“He already missed a point to point a few weeks ago but realized it about 15 minutes into the trip and reported it, so I called that one a practice/near miss,” the corrections specialist continued. “I have no concerns that this needs needs to be addressed other than just reminding him to work on it.”

The Courier-Herald has contacted Department of Corrections and the Department of Social and Health Services to confirm these violations occurred and for additional details, but did not receive an immediate answer.