Police officers have a hard job, with many difficult tasks, some of which can place them in harm's way at a moment's notice.
But few officers could have had a more difficult task than the one Gloucester Detective Jeremiah Nicastro faced Tuesday afternoon.
As the officer in charge of the case, he was the one who had to tell the mother of a 12-year-old girl victimized last month by a twice-convicted Level 3 sex offender that the 43-year-old man who openly exposed himself to her daughter was free to prey on her and the community — again.
And while he likely didn't use these words, no one should blame Nicastro one iota if he told the mother the cold, hard truth:
This predator — elevated from a Level 2 to Level 3 sex offender when he allegedly broke into a Manchester house and raped a 16-year-old girl in a 2009 case that was never prosecuted — has been freed and enabled by a judge and court system that have absolutely failed her, her daughter and this entire community.
Anyone with any sense of justice should be appalled by the facts of this case — leading right up to Tuesday's now-infamous time frame.
According to Gloucester Police, Starr Lloyd III, 43, of the Heights at Cape Ann, was arrested Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. after being interrogated at the Gloucester police station and confessing to the allegations that he had twice exposed himself to the girl, who had been at his home.
To Lloyd, the charges were nothing new. Records show that, in both Peabody and later in Burlington, Lloyd was caught driving on a highway alongside women who could see him fully exposed and masturbating as he drove.
Then, in 2009, Lloyd — then living in Manchester — was charged with breaking into the home of a 16-year-old girl and raping her. In that case, the girl told police that Lloyd had seemed to have a crush on her, and would offer to buy her alcohol from Crosby's Market in Manchester, where he was working at the time.
That case was never prosecuted by the Essex County District Attorney's Office, according to office spokeswoman Carrie Kimball-Monihan, who declined to say why the case was dropped. Yet the incident apparently convinced court officials to up Lloyd's sex offender status from Level 2 to Level 3, that of those most likely to offend.
Given that, and the police report noting that Lloyd told officers he "has a sexual problem and needs help," and you might think Gloucester District Court Judge Joseph Jennings would hold Lloyd to the $10,000 bail sought by prosecutors. You would, of course. think wrong.
Jennings set bail at $3,000, and Lloyd's father bailed him out, Gloucester police confirmed. And Lloyd, who police say confessed that morning and was arraigned at 12:30, was free to go less than an hour later at 1:40 p.m. Welcome to justice — Gloucester style.
Those who follow the Times' regular Gloucester District Court reports may not have been surprised. Jennings has built a dubious reputation as being soft on crime — including a ruling just a few days earlier when a drug-dealing U.S. mail carrier was allowed to skate on a case dismissed because the good judge accepted his attorney's request and certification that he had completed a drug rehab program.
But this also extends far beyond the domain of Jennings, whose hands can be tied on some cases. And others supposedly protecting our safety also owe some hard answers — including:
Why was the 2009 rape charge dropped, yet Lloyd's sex-offender level elevated? Did Jennings not have any knowledge of Lloyd's sex-related criminal history? If he did, how could he set such a low bail? If not, why not?
Our state lawmakers and community leaders have a duty to get to the bottom of this case before Lloyd offends yet again.
By all counts, Nicastro and his fellow officers are working had to protect our public safety.
It would be nice if one of our greatest safety threats weren't coming from an enabling court system — and our own Gloucester District Court.