BOSTON — Convicted child rapist Wayne Chapman is staying in a homeless shelter near Boston's "Methadone Mile," where he is getting medical care, courtesy of the city's taxpayers.
Chapman, 72, 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 other boys in the United States and Canada, according to court records, and remains a suspect in the unsolved 1976 disappearance of Andy Puglisi, 10, from Lawrence.
Chapman, who has been homeless since leaving jail last summer, now lists the Southampton Street Shelter as his residence, according to the state's Sex Offender Registry Board. As a Level 3 sex offender, which means he is considered the most likely to re-offend, Chapman is required to check in with Boston police every 30 days.
It's not clear who, if anyone, in the South End neighborhood was notified that one of the state's most notorious sex offenders is living there.
A Boston police spokesman said aside from Chapman's required monthly check-ins, community service groups are responsible for notifying schools and neighborhoods groups about Level 3 sex offenders.
The spokesman couldn't say, in this case, if any were made aware of Chapman's new residence.
The Boston Public Health Commission, which operates the Southampton Street shelter along with nonprofit groups, declined comment. A Boston schools spokeswoman also declined to comment.
The shelter, in a renovated transportation building, offers beds to about 900 men. It has medical staff and allows men with serious health issues to stay during the day.
Wendy Murphy, an attorney who represents several of Chapman's victims, said he remains a danger to the community and should never have been released.
"Not only should this man not be free, it's outrageous that the taxpayers are footing the bill for his care," she said. "He is a serial child rapist who will likely re-offend."
Until recently, Chapman was locked up 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 even after their prison sentences are finished.
Despite efforts by prosecutors to keep him jailed, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered his release, citing legal requirements.
Chapman was released from custody in August.
He previously reported to the Sex Offender Registry that he was homeless but gave no address. Chapman's former attorney, Eric Tennen, said at the time that he could not live independently but had received no help from the Department of Correction or other agencies in finding a home.
To be sure, the neighborhood where he now lives is one of the toughest in the city, known as the "Methadone Mile." Drug users and homeless camp out along the trash-strewn sidewalks, leaving used hypodermic needles behind.
The area is a mostly commercial and home to methadone clinics, sober homes and soup kitchens.
Around the corner from the shelter, the Suffolk County House of Corrections houses about 900 prisoners awaiting trial or serving out their sentences.
The neighborhood is also home to several elementary schools, private day care facilities and community centers where children congregate.
Russell Lamberti, director of the Orchard Garden Boys and Girls Club, said he only learned about Chapman's residence when a reporter called to inquire.
"We already have enough to worry about, with the daily activities in the neighborhood," he said. "The safety of our kids is important, and we have a very secure facility."
Tennen says Chapman, a wheelchair bound ex-convict, is too old and frail to re-offend and isn't a threat to the community.
"He still has medical issues, so he's not taking day trips anywhere, other than visits to medical facilities," he said.
Tennen said Chapman has no way to earn a living and was released from prison with a check for 9 cents from the Department of Correction. The shelter is his only option, he said.
"He's like a lot of homeless men with convictions, sexual or otherwise. They can't find work to afford housing because they're stigmatized by their past," he said. "Nobody wants to open their doors."
Chapman's path to the streets was cleared last year when two psychiatrists known as "qualified examiners" determined he was no longer a threat, in part because of his age and declining health.
That allowed his release under a 2009 Supreme Judicial Court ruling that bars the state from keeping sex offenders in prison if at least two qualified examiners determine they’re not dangerous.
With Chapman's sentence complete and a determination that he's no longer sexually dangerous, he is not subject to restrictions other than contacting the Sex Offender Registry Board every 30 days, state officials say.
A 2014 Supreme Judicial Court ruling struck down a state parole law that allowed authorities to place convicted sex offenders under supervision for life.
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 sought to strengthen laws on sexual predators, but the effort hasn't won much support from lawmakers.
Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito filed legislation calling for sentences of life without parole for the rape of a child with force by someone who has already been convicted of a sexual offense.
The bill would establish new charges for the rape of multiple children with force, which would also carry a mandatory life sentence.
The proposal also requires a hearing by a new, five-member "sexual dangerousness review board" before the release of a sex offender held under the civil commitment law.
The governor's bill is backed by many law enforcement leaders who've argued that serial child rapists like Chapman are likely to re-offend. Baker filed similar legislation last year amid news of Chapman's pending release, but lawmakers didn't take it up before the end of the session.
His current proposal is stalled in a legislative committee.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com.