BOSTON — Child rapist Wayne Chapman is being treated for health problems at an undisclosed medical facility in Boston, despite being listed by the state Sex Offender Registry as homeless, his attorney said Tuesday.
Chapman's attorney, Eric Tennen, said his client was released from prison last Friday with "nothing but the clothes on his back" and a check from the state Department of Corrections for 9 cents.
"They even took away his wheelchair," Tennen told reporters at his law office. "After 40 years in prison, he is not in good physical shape. He cannot live independently."
He declined to say where Chapman is being treated, citing safety concerns for the Level 3 sex offender and medical staff treating him.
"The last thing they need is a press mob or a vigilante showing up and causing complications," Tennen said.
Chapman, 71, was convicted of raping two boys in Lawrence in the 1970s and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He has admitted to raping more than 100 boys in the United States and Canada, court records say, and remains a suspect in the unsolved 1976 disappearance of Andy Puglisi, 10, of Lawrence.
Until recently, he was held at MCI-Shirley under the state's civil commitment law, which allows for the jailing of sex offenders who are deemed a danger to the community.
Last year, two psychiatrists known as "qualified examiners" determined that Chapman was no longer a threat, in part because of his age and declining health. Despite efforts by state prosecutors to keep him locked up, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered his release, citing legal requirements.
That happened on Friday, after Chapman was found not guilty of lewdness charges by a Middlesex Superior Court jury stemming from allegations he exposed himself to prison staff.
Upon release, Chapman registered as a Level 3 sex offender but listed his address as "homeless" and "on the street" in Boston in filings with the state Sex Offender Registry Board.
"He really is homeless," Tennen said Tuesday. "You can’t expect anyone who’s been incarcerated for 40 years and is medically compromised to have a place to live upon release."
Attorney Wendy Murphy, who represents some of Chapman's victims and sought to block his release, said the fact the public has no idea where he is "outrageous."
She said "unjustified concerns about vigilantism" by Chapman's attorney shouldn't be more important than "the public's legitimate fear that he will hurt another child."
"There's absolutely no evidence that anyone wants to hurt him," Murphy said. "But there is a lot of evidence that he wants to hurt other people, especially children."
Murphy said she believes the homeless listing is a stalling tactic by Chapman's attorney to buy time while they ask a judge to permanently block the release of his address.
Chapman must notify the Sex Offender Registry of a change of address within 10 days. As a homeless sex offender, he must check in with Boston police every 30 days.
Tennen declined to say who is paying for Chapman's treatment, or when he might be released, but acknowledged he is getting support from other convicted sex offenders.
"Yes, many men like Mr. Chapman have to rely on other sex offenders who have been released before them," he told reporters. "Because no one else will help."
He said the Department of Corrections and other state agencies declined to help Chapman find placement in a residential facility, and said he is too frail to stay in a homeless shelter.
"These entities are worried about where he is and where he's going, but did absolutely nothing to help him upon his release," he said. "Had it not been for us, he would probably still be sitting on the street corner outside the courthouse."
A call for tougher penalties
Concerns about Chapman's release ignited public outrage, prompting legal challenges and proposals on Beacon Hill to toughen policies on treating sexual predators.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who opposed Chapman's release, has filed a proposal to require court hearings over whether a sexually dangerous person should be released.
Current law requires an individual held under civil commitment be released when two examiners determine the person is no longer sexually dangerous, even if other experts disagree.
Baker’s bill would also increase penalties for rape of a child with force by a person previously convicted of sexual offenses to life without parole, but lawmakers haven't taken it up yet.
Murphy said while the changes won't affect Chapman's case, lawmakers need to tighten up the laws on dealing with dangerous sex offenders.
"Only in Massachusetts would the privacy rights of a convicted child rapist trump the public's concerns about safety," she said. "Something is wrong here."
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com