BOSTON — The mayor and police commissioner in one of Massachusetts’ biggest cities are pushing for change to keep more violent offenders off the streets.
In November, 25 Investigates exposed the issue of violent suspects, released with GPS ankle monitors, accused of committing new, violent crimes.
Investigative Reporter and Anchor Kerry Kavanaugh went to Springfield and found some in local government trying to make a change in the law to prevent some of these cases from happening and save lives.
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said it’s a concerning trend with serious consequences.
“People are losing their lives or being assaulted after these people are being captured by the police and being brought to court,” Clapprood told Kavanaugh. “The system is just not working.”
Clapprood believes examining how and when a suspect receives bail is a matter of common sense.
“We have to have them held,” she said. “It’s the only way to prevent further victims.”
Claprood said in February 2018, Stewart Weldon was out on bail and wearing a GPS tracker for several charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon, when he cut that bracelet and left it on the steps of the courthouse.
In May, Weldon was arrested after a traffic stop. Police say a woman was in his car pleading for her life. The investigation led to the discovery of the bodies of three women at Weldon’s mother’s Springfield home.
Since the arrest of the alleged serial killer, some 20 other women came forward claiming Weldon sexually assaulted them.
Police said in September, a man was tortured and set on fire inside another Springfield home.
Investigators said a GPS tracker placed Dushane Simon at the home along with several other suspects.
“He eventually cuts off the bracelet and we find it on 495, the highway,” Clapprood said. “He’s still at large.”
Craig McNair served some of his 18-month sentence for shooting someone in 2016. Police said he was accused of shooting at someone else in 2017. He got bail and GPS tracker.
In November, police arrested McNair at a Springfield motel for possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition.
Clapprood contacted 25 Investigates after seeing our story in November about GPS offender cases we uncovered in Boston.
Through an open records request and examining court records, we found 126 Boston cases in last three years of suspects charged with new crimes while wearing a GPS. They included three murders in 2019 alone.
“Even with a bracelet and monitor they’re committing the same crimes if not worse,” Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said.
Sarno said he was fed up with repeat violent offenders, so he helped draft bail legislation for the Commonwealth’s ‘right to appeal bail decisions.’
Essentially, now a defendant can appeal a judge’s bail decision, but the prosecution cannot. This bill would change that when it comes to some serious crimes.
Sarno said this isn’t about second chances for low level or first-time offenders. It’s about one or 2% of all suspects that are having a major impact on his community.
“We did our job,” Clapprood said. “He was incarcerated and now he’s just out on GPS bracelet to offend again. It’s ludicrous to me and I don’t understand how they could qualify for that.”
Commissioner Clapprood and Mayor Sarno said this is a concern for officers, victims and potential witnesses to crime.
Sarno said he’s filed his bill three times. It’s currently stuck in the judiciary committee.
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