Reinstates wife as chaperone but denies father
By Garrett Cabeza, Daily News staff writer
Latah County 2nd Judicial District Court Judge John Stegner ruled Wednesday morning that convicted sex offender Steven Sitler will still not be allowed to reside with his family.
Sitler was sentenced in September 2006 to life in prison with retained jurisdiction after he pleaded guilty to lewd conduct with a child under 16 under a Rule 11 plea agreement with the state of Idaho. He served only one year with the Idaho Department of Corrections and less than a year in the custody of the Latah County Jail before being released from prison with a life term of probation. Sitler’s probation prohibits him from having contact with anyone under the age of 18.
Following his release, Sitler married and the couple had a child. He was removed from the home after admitting during a polygraph test last September to having “contact with his child that resulted in actual sexual stimulation.” At that point a judge ordered Sitler must have an approved chaperone within direct line of sight anytime he was with his child. Sitler has been living in a motel the past 11 months.
In addition to asking the court to allow Sitler to resume living with his wife, Katie Sitler, and the couple’s son, attorneys also asked that Katie Sitler and Dave Sitler, Steven Sitler’s father, be reinstated as approved chaperones for when Steven Sitler is visiting his child. Stegner reinstated Katie Sitler but denied Dave Sitler.
Both lost their statuses as chaperones after they failed to report incidents and disclosures involving Steven Sitler. Roxanne Sitler, Steven Sitler’s mother, lost her status as well but was reinstated as an approved chaperone in January.
Stegner said during Wednesday’s hearing that reunification of the family should be the goal, and experts, including those at Valley Treatment Specialties and Dr. Gregory Wilson, said Katie Sitler should be allowed to be a chaperone.
Stegner said he denied Dave Sitler’s request to be a chaperone because he did not see evidence to approve him as a chaperone.
According to a letter from VTS submitted to the court April 7, Katie Sitler attended individual chaperone review and planning sessions and successfully completed her obligation with VTS, which was recommended by the state. In an additional letter submitted April 25, treatment provider David Nystrom, writing on behalf of VTS, wrote Katie Sitler had demonstrated an increase in knowledge and skill and was an appropriate chaperone for Steven Sitler and the couple’s son.
Stegner said during the hearing Wednesday he did not want to micromanage the specifics of Katie Sitler’s chaperoning requirements because he said it is probation and parole’s job to set the specifications.
VTS designed a “safety plan,” which the state had requested, before Steven Sitler could reside with his family. There were 12 stipulations to the safety plan and Steven and Katie Sitler agreed to the entire plan. Some of the stipulations included:
- Steven Sitler must be in the line of sight of a chaperone when he is with his son;
- Steven Sitler is not allowed to be alone with his son or to bathe or diaper the child;
- When Katie Sitler is in the bathroom, Steven Sitler or the couple’s son must be in line of sight when another chaperone is not present;
- Steven Sitler will report high-risk behaviors and may be polygraphed;
- Katie Sitler may be asked to participate in a polygraph if reasonable concern is present regarding possible violations of the plan or chaperone agreement.
Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson told the Daily News after the hearing that the Sitlers must comply with VTS and probation requirements. Thompson also said the Sitlers have at least 12 approved chaperones.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza at dnews.com.