SOLEDAD, Calif. - Brian DeVries, a serial pedophile who has spent decades in and out of prison, admits he was a "monster" who preyed on little boys around the country while working at places like elementary schools and the YMCA.
He thought he was cured 20 years ago, but the treatment didn't stick. He kept molesting until he wound up in a California rehabilitation program reserved for the "worst of the worst" sex offenders. He spent most of the last seven years locked up in the state's mental hospital.
On Monday, DeVries became a free man. A judge granted his unconditional release after hearing from psychologists who expressed confidence he won't molest again. The prosecutor agreed he has done everything the state has required him to do - and more. DeVries even had himself castrated.
In a five-hour interview with The Associated Press, DeVries, 45, says he plans a "kid-free life" as he begins his new life at his father's home in Washington state this weekend.
"While I'm on this earth I will try to do quiet, good things," DeVries said hours after his release, still reeling with disbelief, grinning and shaking his head, repeating over and over "I can't believe it," and "This is incredible."
"I have no idea why God has allowed me to live. It must be grace, because it's undeserved, unearned. All I can do is give back and be as unobtrusive as possible."
Many others, including his new neighbors, believe DeVries is an unreformed deviant, too dangerous to live among society.
"It sure sounds like the guy is trying," said Steve Ness, who lives outside Shelton, Wash. "If we're going to let him go into society, we have to give him another chance. But I would rather you keep him down there in California."
DeVries was first convicted - and treated - for molesting boys in 1978. He left a New Hampshire hospital convinced he was cured, but later realized he had "all the pedophile-type thinking intact."
Despite his record as a sex offender, he was able to get jobs with the YMCA in Florida, and even taught math in elementary schools. As a recovering pedophile, surrounding himself with children was "like an alcoholic trying to be a bartender," he says.
All told, DeVries says he victimized at least 30 children in three states. He includes in that number children he didn't physically molest, but ones he used as "fantasy material."
"I look back at my life now and I hate it," he says, his voice low, his head shaking. "It's disgusting."
Even his father turned his back on him, before the crime that sent him to prison for the last time.
During a visit with his son in the San Jose area in 1993, Barry DeVries became suspicious. His son promised he wasn't reoffending, but he was lying. He was already grooming his latest victim - like the others, it was a child who lived in sad circumstances, unattended or ignored.
"I saw a child I was attracted to, and I invaded that child's life," he says.
After molesting that 8-year-old boy, DeVries said he was so ashamed that he tried to kill himself. He stole a gun, aimed it at his head and shot a hole in the roof of his car.
He served four years in prison, then went to Atascadero State Hospital. Eventually, he embraced the treatment - unlike the vast majority of the nearly 500 committed sexually violent predators, who fear that details about past crimes will be used to convict them of additional crimes and send them back to prison.
DeVries says his turning point came in November 1998, after he agreed to begin the treatment. He received his first shot of a testosterone-reducing drug he says took away his fantasies about children and his desire to molest. He admitted to crimes he hadn't been convicted of. And most dramatically, he got a phone call from one of his victims. Then in his 20s, the man said he too had become a convicted child molester.
"I felt absolutely responsible for that," he says. "There was my second generation of abuse."
Tall and lanky, with graying slicked-back hair and a sheepish smile, DeVries seemed full of nervous energy as he packed up his clothes, papers and paintings and took off for Washington, where he registered as a sex offender with the sheriff's office on Wednesday.
DeVries plans to live with his father and stepmother outside Olympia, Wash., for a month before moving to a trailer on a remote, heavily wooded plot of land his father owns near Shelton. He plans to limit his contact with his sister's 12-year-old son to avoid even the appearance of trouble.
"I can do absolutely nothing to dispel the people's fears except for the way I live my life day by day," he said.
In releasing DeVries, Judge Robert Baines reminded him to register regularly with police and keep up with his therapy. He said he was impressed by how earnestly DeVries had followed California's requirements. He then wished him luck, adding, "for God's sake, don't prove me wrong."
Even Barry DeVries harbors some doubts about his son's rehabilitation - "I'm as sure as I can be," he said, "but it doesn't mean I won't be watchful."