Hundreds of Massachusetts sex offenders are living in our communities on probation, but not every offender is being watched as closely as probation officials want.
GPS tracking devices are not put on some offenders, even at the request of prosecutors and probation officials, a situation that may change after a hearing set for later this week before the state's highest court.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is hearing the case of Ralph Goodwin, a Level 3 sex offender who kidnapped and repeatedly raped a 7-year-old boy. Goodwin is living in Lowell on probation but without a GPS bracelet despite prosecutors' repeated requests that he wear one.
>>HEAR FROM GOODWIN AND HIS VICTIM'S IN THE VIDEO TO THE LEFT
The little boy was with his parents, who were attending a meeting at the Portugese-American Center in Lowell in 1990.
"He asked me if he could go play out in the hallway and I said sure. And him and a little girl went out to play in the hallway," the boy's mother told FOX Undercover.
The little girl returned, but the woman's son disappeared. He had been taken by Goodwin, who court records reveal had already been investigated for allegedly molesting five other children in the 1980s.
"We couldn't find him. We just couldn't find him," said the mother, who did not want her identity revealed.
"According to a sentencing memorandum in the case, Goodwin began playing hide and seek with the children until he grabbed the boy and carried him outside, "threatening to kill him if he didn't cooperate."
Goodwin took the boy under a bridge and raped him, but the nightmare didn't end there. Goodwin walked the boy to his home, slipping him through a basement window, where he forced the boy to drink beer and, according to court records, "kept the boy all night fondling and continually raping him."
The next morning, Goodwin put the boy in a cardboard box, carried him out of the house and left him on a street corner in the snow, sending a cab to pick him up and take him to his home.
"I feel like I failed him at the time. Because I wasn't able to stop that from happening," his mother said. "It's just hard. I feel a lot of guilt inside of me for all of it happening."
Today, that little boy is now a man who suffers from depression and other mental health issues, which his mother blames on the abuse.
"He's functioning. But it's hard. He gets through the day. For 20 years he's been getting through the day," she said.
Goodwin went to prison for committing the heinous crime, but was released last year after a jury found him no longer sexually dangerous. Now, he's living across the street from a playground in a neighborhood filled with children.
Asked what she thought about Goodwin's not having to wear a GPS bracelet, the mother replied, "I think it's a shame. I'm scared for the other kids."
She added, "There are unsuspecting parents, unsuspecting children that this guy is around every single day."
The Middlesex District Attorney's office tried to get a judge to put a GPS bracelet on Goodwin when he was released, but Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman refused, claiming her hands were tied. Tuttman cited a ruling from the state's highest court last year, which stated the 2006 law requiring sex offenders on probation to wear GPS devices could not be applied to sex offenders convicted before the law passed.
But the DA's office believes judges still have discretion to impose electronic monitoring, and so it's going before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for clarification.
"I think (Tuttman's ruling) puts kids at risk," said Laurie Myers, a victims' rights advocate
Myers said the decision to hold off on Goodwin's GPS bracelet was a wrong one.
"When you're dealing with a sex offender like Ralph Goodwin, you need to use every tool possible to make sure he doesn't commit another crime. Every tool possible," Myers said.
Attorney Larry Hardoon knows Goodwin well. He was the prosecutor who put him away.
"If ever there were an individual that we as a society need to protect ourselves from, he's candidate number one," Hardoon said.
Now in private practice, Hardoon says the judge could have put a braclet on Goodwin and let his lawyers appeal.
"My considered opinion from having dealt with so many hundreds of these cases over my career is that the likelihood of re-offending is very strong, particularly with an individual like this who was a predator for a child that he didn't even know, kidnapped him off the street and sexually molested him," Hardoon said. "The children of Massachusetts and anywhere would be safer if he were wearing a GPS bracelet right now."
FOX Undercover caught up with Goodwin as he left his apartment.
"How'd you know I was here?" he asked as our reporter approached him.
"You're listed on the Sex Offender registry board's website." Beaudet said. "The state considers you someone who's at a high risk to reoffend."
"I'm not a high risk," he replied.
"Do you think you should be monitored by GPS, sir?," Goodwin was asked?
"No, I don't," he replied.
"Do you still have urges to molest children?" Beaudet asked.
"I don't molest children," Goodwin replied.
"Are you dangerous?" Beaudet asked.
"No, I'm not. Please leave me alone," Goodwin said.
But the victim's mother believes he is dangerous, and worries it's only a matter of time before Goodwin attacks another child. But at least for now, he will remain free, without a GPS bracelet. The SJC hears arguments on Wednesday on whether the judge in the Goodwin case had the discretion to order Goodwin to wear a tracking bracelet. The court's decision will impact how often sex offenders in Massachusetts are monitored electronically.
Goodwin's defense attorney's say in court filings that he's been successfully following a treatment program, and because of that, doesn't deserve what they call the additional burden of GPS monitoring.
Middlesex District Attorney Gerald Leone said in a statement that judges have the authority to add GPS monitoring as a condition to a term of supervised probation.
"(W)hile GPS monitoring is not an appropriate substitute for incarceration, it is an important probationary tool for monitoring sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences and remain on probation, particularly those who are a heightened risk of reoffending and have demonstrated a lack of control over their sexual impulses, as is the case here," Leone said.