LAWRENCE — A convicted child rapist who was the top suspect in the 1976 disappearance of 10-year-old Andy Puglisi shared a common bond with another pedophile who is accused of murdering and cannibalizing a Montana boy: psychologists who said they were no longer sexually dangerous.

Wayne W. Chapman was released from the Massachusetts Treatment Center for the Sexually Dangerous in Bridgewater in 1991 by the same psychologists who set free suspected serial killer Nathaniel Bar-Jonah several months earlier, according to the Boston Herald.

Mr. Chapman was sent to state prison in Shirley after being released from the treatment center, and is not scheduled to be released until 2004. He is serving time for the rape of two Lawrence boys after luring them from the same South Lawrence swimming pool where Andy was last seen before vanishing more than 24 years ago. He was never charged in that unsolved case.

But a similar evaluation paved the way for Mr. Bar-Jonah's freedom. He was expected to be arraigned today for the kidnapping and killing of 10-year-old Zachary Ramsay.

The Boston Herald reported a former therapist at the treatment center as saying Mr. Chapman and Mr. Bar-Jonah "hung out together" and both benefited from the help of psychologists Richard Ober and Eric Sweitzer.

Reached at his Attleboro office yesterday, Mr. Ober would not comment on his evaluation.

"I have no record. I have no release from this patient. I can't discuss this matter. Good day," he said, before hanging up on an Eagle-Tribune reporter.

Mr. Sweitzer could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, one of Andy's childhood friends said the pending murder case against Mr. Bar-Jonah raises serious questions about the Massachusetts Treatment Center for the Sexually Dangerous.

"I believe Zachary Ramsay's murder could have been prevented if people took the time to care about the issue," said Melanie McLauglin, who researched the Puglisi case and later produced a documentary on it.

Lawrence police have their doubts about Mr. Chapman's role in the Puglisi case. Despite the years of digging, they never developed any strong leads.

Mrs. McLauglin also has her doubts about Mr. Chapman, but is concerned that he may pose a threat to society again one day.

"I don't want to seem unjust in my belief that if Wayne W. Chapman is released he will re-offend, but, according to several experts, his record speaks for itself: he refused treatment while in the center based on religious beliefs, his first documented sexual offense was as early as age 6, he was physically and sexually abused as a young boy, he often tortured animals, and he has failed to accept responsibility for his crimes."

Mr. Chapman and Mr. Bar-Jonah were among 20 sex offenders who were released from their lifetime commitments at the center during the early 1990s.

"The witnesses who testified on Chapman and Bar-Jonah's behalf were witnesses recruited and paid for by the inmates for their testimony," said Mrs. McLaughlin. "In Chapman's case, the treatment center ruled that he was still sexually dangerous yet their failure to show up for his hearing caused the judge to rule in Chapman's favor based on the testimony of the paid experts, one of whom claimed Chapman had never demonstrated any 'physical violence' despite being in prison for raping two children ... charged with sodomizing dozens of others, one whom he tied to a tree and set on fire."

Recommended for you