MONROE, Wash. -- She has a 20-bed unit to herself. No one else uses the telephone, television, videocassette recorder, refigerator or personal computer.

Sometimes she watches TV, but much of the fare is off-limits.

"I can't watch anything with children in it," says Laura Faye McCollum, a child molester and one of two women classified as violent sexual predators nationwide.

"We've accounted for 15 victims, me and my therapist, on the sexual history polygraph machine they use here, but I'd say I've had at least twice that many," McCollum said.

McCollum, convicted in 1990 of repeatedly raping an 18-month-old Tacoma girl and trying to suffocate her with a pillow, rarely sees anyone except two prison guards who monitor her around the clock at Twin Rivers Correction Center.

There are limited classes in anger and stress management, a session on showing empathy for victims and visits with a forensic therapist twice a week for an hour and another sex offender counselor twice a month.

She spent 5 1/2 years at the state women's prison in Purdy before being sent to the Special Commitment Center in Monroe.

In October, after nearly two years at the center, she was transferred under court order to Twin Rivers, an arrangement that costs the state $300,000 a year. Male residents of the center cost about $65,000 a year.

Despite Zoloft, a compulsive-disorder medication to curtail her sexual obsession with children, and Atenolol, a beta blocker that cuts the flow of adrenalin to control anger, McCollum continues to display anger and moodiness with occasional violent outbursts, said Mark Seling, superintendent of the commitment center.

"Laura can be very difficult," Seling said.

Court records show that while she was in prison, she committed 38 major rule violations, including several assaults, and wrote letters saying she dreamed of someday living next to a day care center and taking children into the woods for sex.

"Laura is clearly aroused by sexually violent themes and entertains sadistic and homicidal fantasies. She is an extremely dangerous woman, and in my opinion it is not a matter of if she reoffends, but when," wrote Michael Comte, one of three sexual predator treatment experts who examined her during the commitment process.

Prison officials are trying hard to get help for her in another state, such as Minnesota, where the nation's other female predator is confined and which, unlike Washington, has a therapeutic sex-offender program for women.

So far, there are no takers.

"I would like to maybe go to Minnesota. At least I'd be with another girl," McCollum said. "I do know though, that if I ever leave this place, the treatment will have to go on for the rest of my life. I do know that."

Each day, after breakfast, McCollum sweeps and mops the floor, takes out the trash, cleans the windows and dusts. If she's ever released, she said, she'd like to clean office buildings.

"I have a certificate in janitorial cleaning," she said.

An interview published last week by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the first granted by McCollum, who turns 40 on Dec. 21, since her indefinite civil commitment began.

"As a child molester, there are things I know that can help other parents," McCollum said.

"Most of the time, I'd get close to the parent, usually a single parent," and often an alcoholic whose guard was down, McCollum said. "I'd say, Hi, I'm your neighbor next door, and if there's anything I can do to help you out, like baby-sit, let me know."' She courted victims with gifts and kind words.

"I think the youngest victim I had was 15 months old, a girl. I used my apartment in Tacoma," she said. "Females are my preference -- normal, small, blonde girls with blue eyes who are non-verbal other than saying Mommy' and Daddy' -- but I've (molested) four boys, too."

McCollum said she didn't want to be committed but she knew she needed help.

At the commitment center, she was surrounded by men and frequently subjected to staring. Some men exposed themselves. Others touched her. Group therapy with serial rapists could be terrifying.

Eventually, U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer ruled that arrangement was "unethical, clinically inappropriate and cruel" and ordered that she be moved to a separate, secure lockup.

In the hour-long interview at the prison visitor center, McCollum said she was born and reared in Memphis, Tenn., one of nine children born to a street peddler.

All the kids, she said, wound up in foster care. She said her foster parents abused her sexually and pysically. Her formal education ended in the eighth grade.

McCollum said she started molesting children as a 9-year-old foster child. "My first one was a 4-year-old girl. I never talked about it, but to me it was normal," she said.

In 1985 she moved to Tacoma with a boyfriend who landed a construction job and gave birth to a daughter, Christine.

"She was four days old when I had to give her to my sister. I was shaking her real hard. I knew I couldn't keep her," she said.

McCollum denied that she told counselors or prosecutors, as court records indicate she did, that she molested her baby.

"I'm not that far gone," she said.

Only in 1989, shortly before the child rape for which she wound up in prison, did she realize she had any problems, McCollum said.

"I was compulsive and violent. It used be that the kids were submissive, and I just wanted control," she said, looking dazed and confused, "but now I found that I was moving toward threats of killing them.

"I got involved with mental-health therapists in Tacoma. I wanted help, but nothing worked."

Recommended for you