Serial sex offender's escape draws attention to unique Texas law - Dallas News |

Serial sex offender's escape draws attention to unique Texas law

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A serial rapist who was captured in Oklahoma after taking off from a Dallas halfway house will likely go back to prison for a very long time.

Robert Grunsfeld remains jailed in Oklahoma, but will soon be transferred to Dallas County and charged with violation of a civil commitment – a third degree felony.

He'll also likely be tried as a "habitual offender," which could send him back to prison for 99 years.

His case and his escape have drawn attention to a unique Texas law designed to keep sexual predators who have completed their sentences off the streets.

Grunsfeld, 51, was convicted in a series of violent rapes in 1989.

A state psychologist described an increasing violent pattern of "sexually sadistic behavior."

His original life sentence was overturned on appeal. Instead, he got 20 years. He was deemed too dangerous to release and transferred to a halfway house, the Dallas Transition Center, under what's called a "civil commitment."

There are 225 men housed in the privately run facility, but most are parolees. Only a dozen, like Grunsfeld, are there under civil commitments.

Allison Taylor of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management says civil commitments are "under the highest level of supervision," but the halfway house is "not prison-type security."

Avalon Correctional Service, the private company that runs it and five other halfway houses in Texas, says it is reviewing security procedures in wake of Grunsfeld's escape.

Just before 8 p.m. Friday, Grunsfeld was apparently waiting for the opportunity to sneak out through a gate when somebody else was buzzed through. He managed to cover a camera up and was walking down the street, away from the facility, before somebody noticed that something might be wrong.

Brian Costello of Avalon says security guards did an immediate count of inmates, realized Grunsfeld was missing and notified state authorities within the hour.

DPS ramped up the search on Monday by placing Grunsfeld on the Ten Most Wanted Sex Offender list.

He was captured Monday afternoon in McAlester, Oklahoma after a tip to a parole officer that he would be dropped off at a Taco Bell, where officers were waiting.

"They've never let anybody off on this program, sir," said Grunsfeld. "Never."

"Where were you headed?" asked FOX 4.

"Somewhere peaceful where I can lead my life," Grunsfeld said.

In fact, since 1999, 311 men have been placed in civil commitment.

Not one has completed the program and been released.

But as state officials also point out, there has not been a single incident in which a civil commitment has re-offended -- not a single rape.

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