Wayne Chapman, a 59-year-old man convicted of raping two children in 1977, is set to be released in May after 41 years in confinement after state examiners concluded he was no longer "sexually dangerous," according to the Boston Herald.
Chapman, who the Eagle Tribune reported is suspected of assaulting as many as 100 children, spent 30 years in prison after being convicted of raping two boys in the woods of Lawrence, Mass., in 1975, according to the paper.
Although he was never charged in the case, Chapman was also a prime suspect in the disappearance of 10-year-old Angelo "Andy" Puglisi Jr., who vanished from a Lawrence swimming pool in 1976, according to Fox 25 Boston.
After serving his criminal sentence, Chapman spent another 11 years civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person, the Boston Herald reported. Over the years he began petitioning for his release, but was denied each time.
That changed this year.
"Once someone is civilly committed they can file for a review every 12 months. The DA's office is no longer involved in the process," Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for the Essex district attorney's office, told the Eagle-Tribune. "My understanding is that two qualified examiners found him not to be sexually dangerous and therefore he must be released."
He will have to register as a sex offender, according to the Eagle Tribune, but will not have a supervisor.
The news came as a shock to some in the community.
"Suddenly he's no longer sexually dangerous simply by virtue, what that he's older? That doesn't make any sense," Melanie Perkins, who was a childhood friend of the missing Puglisi, told Fox 25 Boston. "My heart breaks for his family and for all the victims of Wayne Chapman because there are many. Children in Providence who were raped by him, children in Massachusetts who were raped by him."
Lawrence's police chief and mayor also expressed their concern at the news.
"I don't know what to say. It's a tragic case and obviously I feel for the family and I wish they could get some closure on this," the city's police chief Roy Vasque told the Eagle Tribune.
"If you get life in prison, you should spend your life in prison," mayor Daniel Rivera told the paper. "It doesn't make any sense to me."
Chapman's lawyers have tried to get him released many times over the years. In 2016, a lawyer argued that Chapman was simply "too old" to re-offend even if he wanted to.
“He's just too old, and too sick and his life won't create the circumstances to allow him to re-offend. Even if he wanted to, I’m not saying he does want to, or did want to, but regardless, it's not even feasible to think that he could,” Chapman's lawyer Eric Tennen said at the time, according to Fox 25 Boston.
Perkins told WCBV she was angry that news of his release came about so suddenly.
“I was heartbroken, and I still am, obviously, but I’m also angry. Now I want to know how this happened,” Perkins told the station. “Chapman will hurt another child when he gets out, and I want to know who is going to be responsible for that?”
An aunt of the missing boy told the Boston Herald Chapman should never be let back on the street.
"We don’t know for sure he had anything to do with Andy, but he’s definitely very, very sick. I believe he played a game, played a part to get himself free," Billie Scharn told the paper.
Despite the backlash, Chapman's release seems almost certain, according to the district attorney's office.
“If both (experts) found him to no longer be sexually dangerous, it’s game over,” Kimball-Monahan, the spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett, told the Boston Herald. “He can’t be held beyond that because it’s a civil commitment and he completed his criminal sentence long ago.”