Upcoming release of high-risk sex offender in Essex prompts community concern, frustration

Local News

ESSEX, Vt. – Next week, a high-risk sex offender will be released from prison after 25 years behind bars, and his move to the Town of Essex is raising concern throughout the community.

In 1996, then 26 year-old Craig Yandow chased a woman in Burlington, dragged her from the street, and sexually assaulted her. She was hospitalized with serious injuries, and the following year, Yandow was convicted on aggravated sexual assault charges.

A quarter century later, the 51 year-old Yandow’s plans to move to Essex following his October 13 release have prompted the town’s police department and the Essex Community Justice Center to host a community meeting addressing residents’ concerns.

Chief among those concerns is the fact that Yandow will not be under the supervision of probation and parole because he served the entirety of his maximum sentence.

“It’s fairly frequent that offenders are released into the community, however it doesn’t happen very often where an unsupervised offender is released,” said Essex Police Chief Ron Hoague. “One thing we would like to do is transition him in a way where he’s not just going to be left on his own.”

The police department and community justice center have worked together to offer reintegration services to Yandow, but that’s on a voluntary basis – not mandated.

While in prison, Yandow turned down the opportunity to undergo sex offender treatment. Because of that, the Vermont Department of Corrections considers him at moderate to high risk of committing another crime.

Former Burlington Police Department Detective Tim Charland lead the Yandow investigation back in 1996, and said that refusal to enter treatment is one of the more concerning aspects of this situation.

“Had he received the appropriate treatment and gone to the appropriate programs, he obviously would have been released sooner,” Charland said. “So the fact that he’s been released at his maximum sentence and the fact he’s aware he has not received those programs, it’s disappointing and it’s concerning.”

In recent days, some community members have taken to Facebook to voice frustrations over Charland’s release.

Kimberly Wells Garrett lived in Essex her entire life until recently moving to Colchester, and said the community shouldn’t blame police for the circumstances surrounding Yandow’s release.

“If anyone wants to make a real change, the law needs to be changed,” Garrett said. “People need to lobby to make an impact by bringing this huge problem to the attention of our elected officials.”

Another woman who wished to remain anonymous said she recently moved her 18 year-old daughter into Essex, and Yandow’s release is unsettling.

“I personally am uncomfortable moving my daughter somewhere that isn’t protecting the other citizens’ safety over the rights of the convicted… Women in general already have to watch their backs and this is just horrible.”

Charland said Yandow has served his time, and even though there won’t be any sort of monitoring from probation and parole, the community is undoubtedly a factor here.

“He will be supervised from a community standpoint, and he’s going to be aware of that himself,” Yandow said. “For that, we hope that keeps him in line. The only one who truly knows the future is Craig Yandow.”

Yandow will be on the sex offender registry for the next ten years.

The virtual community meeting will be held from 6 to 7 PM on Friday on Microsoft Teams. A link is available here.

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