31 years after Auburn bowling-alley rape, assailant in post-prison limbo on home

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A violent sexual predator because of rapes in Auburn and Santa Barbara County more than 30 years ago, Tibor Karsai continues to have a hard time finding somewhere to legally live outside prison walls. Santa Barbara County justice officials traveled for a fourth time to Placer County in an attempt Monday to convince Judge James Garbolino that Karsai, 59, should not be allowed to live in Santa Maria. In a short statement in an Auburn courtroom, Garbolino said he will allow more time for the private healthcare contractor managing Karsai’s placement to find living accommodations for the two-time convicted rapist after his release. “I’m not restricting you to Santa Barbara County,” Garbolino said. Karsai did not appear in court Monday. Potential placements will be reviewed Feb. 27 by Garbolino, who also placed a gag order on attorneys or others associated with the court case – effectively preventing them from speaking publicly about potential placements. In mid-November, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley had publicly voiced her objections to Garbolino’s direction to Liberty Healthcare to place Karsai in a Santa Maria residence. Liberty is contracted by the state Department of Mental Health to manage all released sexually violent predators. Dudley said her office would continue to oppose Karsai’s placement in Santa Barbara because it believes that his correct and legal county of domicile is San Luis Obispo. The placement – at Karsai’s mother’s residence – was also being opposed because they believe it is closer than a 2,000-foot radius to an elementary school and a community park, she said. According to Santa Barbara County authorities, Karsai was first convicted in 1974 of forcible rape in Santa Barbara County. He was sentenced to three years to life and paroled five years later in San Luis Obispo County. The Auburn rape took place in February 1980. Karsai was working as a truck driver and on a long haul to Placer County. An initial Journal report stated Karsai dragged a 16-year-old girl into the Foothill Bowl men’s restroom and sexually assaulted her. Karsai was convicted of the second forcible rape and sentenced to 26 years in state prison. Placer County authorities were able to successfully file a court petition in 1998 to keep Karsai in custody as a sexually violent predator. But five years ago, a hung jury on keeping Karsai incarcerated led to a decision allowing him out of custody through a conditional release program.