BOULDER, Colo. –
A convicted double-murderer who was moved from prison to a halfway house last year to be monitored under close supervision told his treatment provider that he knowingly broke the rules out of a need for closeness and relationship, according to court documents.
John Engel could be sent back to prison in April after probation officials recently recommended against his return to Boulder’s halfway house, 1770 21st St. He was convicted eight years ago of killing his adoptive mother and grandmother in 1999, at age 14, with a hammer and knife in the family’s Longmont home.
Engel, 23, initially was sentenced to serve seven years at a juvenile corrections facility and then 32 years in prison but was given the chance to finish his sentence in a community-based program, as long as he met strict conditions.
He “enjoyed a strong start to his transition,” according to court documents, but he was removed from the halfway house and booked into the Boulder County Jail in October after officials discovered that Engel, on several occasions, violated his probation.
A probation official asked a district court judge in December to give Engel a second chance but changed his mind earlier this month after Engel reportedly violated a no-contact order while in jail.
It’s unclear what Engel did at the jail to prompt probation officers to renege their appeal for a second chance. But new court documents detail Engel’s probation violations while at the halfway house.
Engel developed relationships with two women — one more serious than the other — which led him to visit the women’s corridor, which is off-limits; obtain a cell phone without authorization; and use the Internet to e-mail the women, visit YouTube, access pornography and create three e-mail accounts using two names — all things prohibited under his community-based sentence.
Residents of the halfway house must check in and out when they leave, indicate where they’re going and call when they arrive. Engel and many others must wear GPS monitors.
According to a probation report, Engel also met a women at unauthorized locations — like along Boulder Creek — five times, lingered in a park near Walnut and 25th streets 21 times and stopped at several prohibited spots around the Twenty Ninth Street Mall.
After probation officers questioned Engel about text messages and e-mails he sent a women, Engel admitted he kept a cell phone, wrapped in a plastic bag, hidden in a park near the halfway house, according to the report.
A woman gave Engel the phone and paid for one month of service, Chief Probation Officer Greg Brown wrote in the report. Probation officers knew about the relationship, Brown wrote, but they didn’t know Engel was “texting, e-mailing and meeting this woman outside of the facility.”
Both Engel and the woman have denied intimate contact, Brown wrote, but “the texts and e-mails, as well as his behavior, suggest it was a relationship he was willing to take significant risks to pursue.”
According to the report, Engel risked much to meet the woman because she fulfilled his need to be valued.
Engel said, according to the report, “I have a strong need to make something of my life and to help people. That is what I was trying to do.” And, according to a treatment provider’s report, Engel experienced a lot of rejection after his release.
Although Engel eventually landed a job as a host at Golden Lotus, 1964 28th St., he “encountered literal recoiling and downright disgust from prospective employers,” wrote Betsy deCastro, a treatment provider for the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board.
According to an interview with deCastro, Engel pursued the woman because they had a lot in common.
“Not only the fact that we were both Asian from across the sea, but I could feel her pain and sorrow and loss,” Engel said, according to the report. The woman didn’t judge him, he said.
“She let me read her journal and she’d written in there about being in a meeting they had about me at the halfway house before I even went there and how she hoped that they’d give me a chance,” Engel said in the report.
Engel admitted to Brown that “I really screwed up.” Engel was arrested Oct. 10 after he let the battery on his GPS tracking device died.
Engel’s father, Tom Engel — who the teen also tried to kill in 1999 — said he was surprised to learn probation officials no longer believe Engel should be in community treatment. Tom Engel said he hoped his son would use the “unique opportunity” he was given to “prove himself, be a contributing member of the community, and spend the rest of his life making amends.”
“It hurts to hear than my son has, apparently, chosen a different way,” Engel told the Camera in an e-mail Friday.
Still, Tom Engel said, he still has concerns about his son’s “deceitful behavior” and hopes that Judge Carol Glowinsky will remember her “stern warning to John that violation could result in his return to prison and additional time being added to the sentence.”