necn Investigates: Sex Offenders Flying Under the Radar

Some repeat offenders don't appear on the public sex offender registry

Middleborough, Massachusetts, parent Doreen Ledezma does not mince words.

"I'm angry," she seethed after learning that sex offender Wayne Haskell wasn't on the public sex offender registry when he was recently arrested.

Middleborough Police said the Bridgewater man repeatedly drove alongside school buses headed to Burkland Elementary School, masturbating in front of first and second grade boys.

"I think they really should have taken care of the issue," said Ledezma, whose son rides that bus line.

The state once considered Haskell such a threat to society that it upgraded his classification from a Level 2 to Level 3 sex offender - the most likely to re-offend. That status put his photo and where he lives, works or spends a significant amount of time on the public Sex Offender Registry website.

But when he was arrested in May, Haskell was back down to a level 2 offender - his information inaccessible to the general public.

"I think it's definitely wrong," Middleborough resident Carol Howe said.

Haskell, who pleaded not guilty to the new charges, has a lengthy and disturbing history.

Dating back two decades, he man has been in and out of prison - convicted on 11 counts of open and gross behavior in front of children.

After he was accused of a similar crime in 2009, the Sex Offender Registry Board - or SORB - raised his classification. But three years later, the state appeals court ruled SORB had overstepped, and that the board could not raise an offender's classification level unless they had been convicted of a new offense.

The alleged victim in the 2009 case did not testify, so there was no conviction and the Board had to put Haskell back down to a level 2.

"It is shameful and it's inexcusable," Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said.

In 2013, state legislators gave SORB the power to reclassify offenders without a new conviction, but the board never circled back to Haskell. SORB insists the new law didn't allow them to act retroactively, but Tarr said they should be able to look at an offender's history comprehensively.

"That's the very reason we have a sex offender registry board - to be able to evaluate that information and make an appropriate classification," Tarr said.

No one from SORB would agree to an interview with necn, but in a public records request, we asked them to tell us how many offenders like Haskell were out there. How many did they once consider a higher risk who may need to have their classification reconsidered?

They told us they didn't know, that the information is "...not searchable in our current database."

"It's incredibly problematic," said Tarr. "We don't know what we don't know. And that's very concerning in regard to an agency that's so essential to public safety."

Larni Levy specializes in sex offender law with the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

"How would this have prevented or protected the public in this situation? It wouldn't," she said.

Levy said the sex offender website gives the public a false sense of security and would not have prevented Haskell's alleged crime.

"He sounds like an individual who's been recycled into the court system. Our real focus should be on prevention and treatment," she said.

But parents who say they check the website to see who their children could be interacting with want to know when a high-risk offender is in their community.

"It scares me really. It's frightening," said Jan, a parent who asked that her last name not be used.

Tarr is drafting legislation that would allow SORB to look at an offender's lifetime history when they are classifying them.

As for Haskell, he is being held without bail and is due back in court on Friday. At this moment, he remains off the public registry website.

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