In February 2011, a state board determined that rapist Robert Douglas Hitt was more likely than not to commit another sex offense if released...

Share story

In February 2011, a state board determined that rapist Robert Douglas Hitt was more likely than not to commit another sex offense if released from prison. A year was added to his minimum sentence.

Six months later, the same board ruled that Hitt — who was convicted of a 2001 rape in Seattle’s University District — was releasable because he had completed a sex-offender treatment program along with intensive treatment for drug and alcohol problems.

He reportedly had an “epiphany” as a result of his sex-offender treatment and “worked hard to transform himself, his attitude and thoughts so that he won’t create another victim in the future,” according to the Aug. 17 decision by the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.

The 34-year-old Hitt, a Level 2 sex offender under lifelong supervision by the state Department of Corrections, was released from prison Jan. 10.

On Monday, he was arrested inside a University District house, where he had allegedly smashed a window to get inside, then tied up six young women who live there.

King County District Court Judge Anne Harper on Tuesday found probable cause to hold Hitt on investigation of attempted indecent liberties, first-degree robbery with a deadly weapon, first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon and six counts of unlawful imprisonment.

She ordered Hitt held on $900,000 bail in the King County Jail, while acknowledging he is “going nowhere between now and his second [court] appearance” because he is on a no-bail hold for violating the conditions of his release from prison.

King County prosecutors are expected to file formal charges against Hitt on Wednesday, when his second appearance is scheduled.

According to a probable-cause statement outlining the police case against Hitt, he allegedly ordered the six women into a bedroom at knifepoint. He ordered one victim to undress, binding her hands and then taking “her clothes completely off,” the statement says.

When police arrived at the house in the 5000 block of 20th Avenue Northeast at 3:31 a.m. Monday, one of the women who had called 911 answered the door and directed the officers upstairs, according to the statement. Officers found a knife in Hitt’s pocket, along with two cellphones belonging to two of his alleged victims, the statement says. He claimed he planned to rob the women for beer money, according to police.

Austen Beard, 19, said Monday the man who broke into her house made no attempt to round up the women’s laptops or cellphones and ignored one woman’s offer to take him to an ATM to withdraw cash.

“He could’ve easily taken anything” but didn’t even ask for the women’s wallets, said Beard, whose hands were bound with duct tape during the home invasion.

Lynne De Lano, the chairwoman of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, said in a phone interview Tuesday that she was shocked and dismayed to hear of Hitt’s arrest. De Lano wrote the board’s August report that found Hitt eligible for release from prison.

“It’s a horrible trauma for those young women, and I’m grateful they weren’t harmed” further, she said.

In light of Hitt’s arrest, De Lano said, “You can’t help but step back and go, ‘Gee, should we have done anything differently based on the information we had at the time? Did we miss something in the file, or miss something in the in-person interview?’ “

Since September 2001, certain sex offenders like Hitt have been sentenced to both minimum and maximum prison terms, typically life, thus making their sentences “indeterminate.”

Before their minimum sentences expire, sex offenders are evaluated by the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, whose members are appointed by the governor.

An offender must be released unless the board determines the offender is more likely than not to commit another sex offense. If an offender is not released, the board must re-evaluate that offender at least every five years.

Though Hitt appeared to represent a low risk to reoffend in August, “we’re dealing with people, and I don’t know that we can ever predict behavior 100 percent,” De Lano said, noting that 1,800 inmates currently fall under the board’s jurisdiction.

Of the 386 sex offenders granted release by the board since the 2001 law went into effect, only four had committed new sex offenses as of June 30, she said. But three of the four were no longer under the board’s jurisdiction at the time of the new crimes because they had already served maximum prison sentences for their prior offenses, De Lano said.

Hitt was convicted in May 2002 of first-degree rape after he sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman who delivered a sandwich to his University District apartment in October 2001. He was sentenced to a minimum of 9.75 years, according to court records.

During his first seven years in prison, he amassed several serious infractions, including making alcohol, overdosing on drugs and having positive urine tests for amphetamine, opiates and morphine, according to the reports.

“The Board is concerned about the brutality and violence of Mr. Hitt’s crime, as well as the nature and frequency of behavior issues during the first seven years of his incarceration,” the February 2011 report concluded.

Though Hitt started sex-offender treatment “on the wrong foot,” he had made “significant progress” by the time he went before the board in August, the reports say.

“While the Board remains concerned about the challenges Mr. Hitt will face upon release, especially in regards to his chemical dependency, he seems to be thoughtful about his plans for re-entry,” the August report says.

“All things considered, this appears to be an appropriate time to release Mr. Hitt.”

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com