DANVERS — A man who has spent nearly four decades protesting his innocence in the rape of a 59-year-old neighbor in 1983 is now living in the Danvers home of North Shore business owner and philanthropist John Archer.
Archer, a longtime supporter of Benjamin LaGuer, did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment Friday. But in a letter to the Parole Board two years ago, Archer wrote that he wanted LaGuer to live with him at his home at 10 North St.
LaGuer, 56, was released unexpectedly on "compassionate release" medical parole this week after serving 36 years of a life sentence for the 1983 rape and burglary of his Leominster neighbor. Court filings and officials say LaGuer is suffering from advanced liver cancer and cirrhosis.
He has been deemed a "Level 3" sex offender, by the Sex Offender Registry Board, according to that agency's website. That category is considered at highest risk of re-offending.
Among the considerations that the registry uses in determining whether someone is dangerous is whether he has received treatment. But throughout his highly public campaigns for release, LaGuer has said he would not take part in treatment because it would require him to admit guilt.
Acknowledging responsibility for a crime is also usually required by the Parole Board before it will consider releasing someone from a life sentence. Because of that, LaGuer was not paroled.
LaGuer has strenuously maintained his innocence, drawing notoriety and the attention of many prominent figures who supported his campaign for DNA tests. Those tests ended up providing further evidence tying him to the crime.
Doctor: LaGuer has weeks to live
A letter from LaGuer's treating physician, filed last month in Worcester Superior Court, said LaGuer's "survival is measured in weeks or at best a few months."
The Jan. 9 letter from Dr. Kevan Hartshorn at Boston Medical Center says LaGuer's liver is failing and he is in pain, but said he is limited in the amount of pain medication he can provide LeGuer due to mental confusion and sleepiness caused by the liver disease.
Hartshorn's letter says "it is unlikely further treatments can be safely given or will help to control the cancer."
The letter acknowledges that LaGuer has shown improvements in the past — one of the grounds for the Department of Correction's opposition to LaGuer's release since he first made the request in 2018 — but said "there is little we can can do now and his survival now (is) very limited."
Archer said in his 2018 letter to the Parole Board that he met LaGuer 20 years ago through former Boston University president John Silber, who was among a group of high-profile supporters prior to the DNA test.
"I write today to tell you that if released, I am the man behind his housing solution," Archer wrote in the Jan. 29, 2018, letter.
He cited both the size of his home, as well as his charitable work and his work in founding what was then called Hospice of the North Shore.
"I feel my experience dealing with end of life issues will help Ben in this segment of his life," Archer told the Parole Board. "My 20 years with Ben, nearly a thousand phone calls from him, many personal visits to sit next to him in prison, and the countless moments I've spent pondering my extraordinary friendship with this man, I can assure you that even a healthy Ben LaGuer is of no risk to the community."
Archer also said in the letter that he had notified Danvers police Chief Patrick Ambrose of his efforts to bring LaGuer to live with him.
"He asked for my support, which I did not give," said Ambrose on Friday.
Ambrose said the department was notified approximately 10 days ago of LaGuer's impending release. Officers are now sending notifications to the town's schools, the library, the post office and town hall.
"Mr. LaGuer will be treated like any other Level 3 sex offender in the community," said Ambrose. LaGuer, who is registered with the state, will be required to periodically register with the police department, and an officer will conduct verification checks.
With LaGuer's arrival, there are currently six Level 3 sex offenders living in Danvers, according to the Sex Offender Registry Board website.
The supervision of LaGuer will be by his parole officer, said Ambrose, but if an officer encounters LaGuer in a situation that could be considered a parole violation, such as being out after his 10 p.m. curfew, the department will notify the parole officer.
A paralegal for LaGuer's attorney, Jeffrey Harris, said Harris is not commenting on the matter.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.