Jury keeps repeat child sex offender confined

He loses bid to shed legal label of sexually violent predator

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A Clark County jury on Thursday decided to keep a repeat child sex offender confined indefinitely at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island in Puget Sound.

Brent W. Pettis, 54, had petitioned the court to shed his legal label of a sexually violent predator so that he could be released.

During a two-week trial in Superior Court Judge Scott Collier's courtroom, a jury heard opposing testimony from experts hired by Pettis' defense attorneys and the state about whether Pettis still meets the definition of a sexually violent predator. Sexually violent predators are confined indefinitely in the Special Commitment Center unless the state, a judge or a jury determines the label no longer fits.

Pettis was convicted of multiple counts of child rape and child molestation in Clark County and in one case, in Skamania County. His last conviction was in 1991, according to court documents. During his extensive treatment on McNeil Island, he has admitted to having many more victims than those for which he was charged, said Mary Robnett, a state assistant attorney general.