LAWRENCE — Level 3 Sex Offender Gerard Anthony Burbine could lose his freedom again because he left his laptop computer behind in the laundry room of a Bradford Street rooming house.
The rooming house manager found the laptop and planned to return it when she learned it belonged to Burbine.
But after discovering what appeared to be numerous images of child pornography, she decided to give it to police instead.
Police Chief John Romero credited the woman's discovery and police tip with prompting a criminal investigation which led to the arrest of a serious sex offender.
Burbine, 70, of 53 Bradford St., was charged with enticing a minor to be exhibited in a state of nudity. He was being held in the Essex County Jail in Middleton on $30,000 cash bail.
"This investigation unfolded because of the woman's cooperation, otherwise we may never have learned of this disturbing crime," Romero said.
"Given the fact of what was on the laptop and knowing this guy was a Level 3 sex offender from recognizing his photo on Channel 22 (the Lawrence Public Television station), it was clear to her she couldn't give it back," the chief said.
"We had to obtain a search warrant before going into the computer, Once we obtained the warrant, we reviewed the computer and brought it to state police forensic lab in Maynard where it was determined that child pornography was on there," he said.
The state Sex Offender Registry Board designated Burbine as a Level 3 sex offender, based on his March 2004 conviction in Cook County, Ill., on possession of child pornography.
Burbine, who was then a resident of the Niles, Ill., walked into that small village's police station and announced he had been collecting child pornography since the 1960s and told officers that he "just doesn't feel right about it," according to a 2004 story published by The Chicago Tribune.
Police said Burbine's collection included about 3,000 images in books, magazines, films and downloaded pictures. None of the images was homemade.
Burbine received a two-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to child pornography. He registered with Illinois State Police as a sex offender.
When he moved back to Lawrence — his hometown — several years ago, he was required to register with the city's Police Department as a Level 3 sex offender.
"The Board has determined that these individuals have a high risk to reoffend and that the degree of dangerousness posed to the public is such that a substantial public safety interest is served by active community notification," according to the public flyers distributed by the Sex Offender Registry Board.
After conferring with Officer Eugene Scanlon, head of the Police Department's sex offender tracking unit, Romero said he knows of no previous police problems involving Burbine.
"Officer Scanlon indicated to me that he's been in compliance and there are no complaints against him," Romero said.
"So, it is disturbing that the conviction that put him on the sex offender's list is what he's allegedly charged with now. After all of these years, he's still involved in child pornography," the chief said.
In a search of Burbine's apartment, police seized another laptop computer which he bought on the day he left his other laptop in the laundry room.
The Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board lists Burbine as one of 57 Level 3 sex offenders living in Lawrence.