City police on watch for seat belt use

The Police Department has received grant money from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to increase seat belt enforcement patrols as part of the national "Click It or Ticket" campaign happening now through June 2.

Haverhill police will be joined by the Massachusetts State Police and up to 140 other local departments in the high-visibility enforcement effort designed to reduce motor vehicle deaths and injuries.

"Reducing the number of people who are needlessly injured or killed in our community is our priority," said Deputy Police Chief Anthony Haugh. "These funds allow us to put more patrols in high-crash locations and stress the importance of buckling up to motorists who are unbuckled."

Although seat belt violations are a secondary offense and a driver cannot be stopped for not wearing one, Click it or Ticket is part of an educational campaign to increase seat belt usage with an enforcement component, police said.

The seat belt use rate rose significantly to 81.6% in Massachusetts last year, but it still lags well behind the national average of 89.7%, according to the state’s annual seat belt observation study.

Of the 207 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in Massachusetts in 2017, 62% were unrestrained, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Seat belts saved an estimated 61 lives in Massachusetts in 2017, and an additional 45 deaths could have been prevented if seat belt usage were at 100%.

"The more people who buckle up, the fewer injuries and fatalities on our roads," said Jeff Larason, director of the Highway Safety Division, Office of Grants and Research, EOPSS. "Regardless of how short your trip is, or how good a driver you are, seat belts ar

The current Massachusetts Seat Belt Law requires all motor vehicle occupants to be properly restrained by seat belts when riding in private or commercial vehicles, including vans and trucks.

Fines begin at $25 per violation. The Massachusetts Enhanced Child Passenger Safety Law requires children riding as passengers in motor vehicles to be in a federally approved child passenger restraint that is properly fastened and secured until they are 8 years old or over 57 inches tall. Children older than 8 years or taller than 57 inches must wear seat belts.

Massachusetts has more than 230 inspection sites where parents and caregivers can have their child’s car seat checked for free to ensure it is properly installed.

Visit for a map and listing of all inspection sites.

—Mike LaBella 


City to spend $71,200 to design running track

The Sapienza Memorial Track at Haverhill High School inched closer to a rebirth when the City Council approved spending $71,200 on design work in advance of reconstruction.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the money will come from the $400,000 that remains in an account used to build the high school's new multipurpose sports field that features a softball diamond and full-sized fields for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.

The city had budgeted $2 million to build the field, which ended up costing approximately $1.6 million, leaving about $400,000 that the mayor wants to use to rebuild the track.

The mayor said he plans to use the rest of the money towards rebuilding the track, which he estimates will cost between $400,000 and $700,000.

Athletic Director Tom O'Brien said the 20-year-old track has been patched repeatedly and cannot be patched any more.

"It needs to be replaced," O'Brien said, adding that the track benefits hundreds of student athletes who use it on a daily basis, and also other members of the community who use it.

Retired Haverhill police Officer Larry Newman, senior New England correspondent for Track & Field News, addressed the council, saying a new track is long overdue for a sport that often takes a back seat to other sports.

Newman asked the council to support the installation of seating, so that spectators won't have to stand and watch track and field events.

"I know everybody is asking for money, you've got to put roofs on schools and pave roads, but this should not be a major money drain to get some seating around the track," Newman said. "You don't need 10,000 seats, but you need something."

Newman suggested that seating could help draw more and possibly bigger track and field events to the high school.

O'Brien said it may be possible to use portable bleachers purchased for the new multipurpose field, but it would require creating space by moving the triple and high jump areas that are outside the track, to inside the track.

"I really don't think it's going to be a big deal to find some seats," he said. "I think we can find a way to get this done, in an affordable way."

The track — and the field that is within the track — were named in memory of Tony Sapienza, a long-time Haverhill High math teacher and math department chairman who also served as a cross country coach.

Born in Lawrence on April 12, 1929, Sapienza went on to graduate from Central Catholic High School in 1949 and Boston College in 1953.

In his lifetime, Sapienza ran in more than 1,000 races, both locally and around the world. In 1952, he was on the cover of Life Magazine for his running accomplishments. He finished fourth in the Boston Marathon in 1958 and placed sixth in the Olympic trials in Culver City, California, in 1963.

A past president of the Boston Athletic Association, Sapienza died on March 15, 1987, at Brown University in Rhode Island after winning a 3,000-meter race and setting an American age group record.

"Back in the day when he was in training, he left the house for runs while dressed in work pants, a belt, a shirt and a sweatshirt," said his daughter, Toni Donais, principal of the Bartlett and Greenleaf schools. "There were times police stopped him on Kingsbury Avenue and other streets in Bradford to ask him what was wrong and what was he running from."

Sapienza and his wife, Audrey (Wilson) Sapienza, raised three daughters, Toni, Karen Sapienza, an eighth grade math teacher turned electrical engineer who recently retired and is living in Florida, and Joy Sapienza-Kessler, who taught eighth grade math in Hudson, New Hampshire, and also retired recently and is living in Andover with her family.

After his death, and at the urging of math teacher John Savinelli, who worked in Sapienza's department and is Mayor James Fiorentini's brother-in-law, both the School Committee and City Council voted to name the high school track and athletic field after him and to place a plaque on the site in his honor.

Donais said her family was considering raising money to redo the track, but realized how daunting a task it would have been due to the anticipated cost.

"We're thrilled that the city is looking to rebuild the track in my father's name," Donais said, adding that she and her husband Mark raised two daughters, Jennifer Donais, the math coach at Silver Hill School, Melissa, a nurse practitioner who lives in North Andover with her husband Nate, a math teacher, and a son, Christopher, an electrical engineer who lives in Boston.

— Mike LaBella


Local nurse seeks guilty plea for diluting dying patient's morphine

A local nurse accused of diluting a dying, elderly patient's morphine now wants to plead guilty in her ongoing federal case, according to court records.

The defense attorney for Lauren Perrin, 47, of Haverhill has requested a hearing in federal court in Boston for Perrin "to change her plea," according to court records.

Perrin, of 10 Primrose Way, No. 3308, previously entered a plea of not guilty after she was charged March 12 with one count of tampering with morphine, which is widely used for pain relief in terminally ill patients.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The crimes occurred while Perrin worked at an Amesbury care and rehab facility, according to documents.

Her defense attorney, Mark McNally of Andover, on May 6 requested a Rule 11 hearing, which allows a defendant to change a plea in a case.

McNally listed a variety of available dates in late May and early June although the hearing has yet to be scheduled, according to federal court records.

Perrin was charged March 12 and later barred by a federal judge from "seeking employment in the medical field," although her nursing license was still active with the state.

She was released on a $10,000 bond with a variety of pre-trial conditions after her initial appearance at U.S. District Court in Boston.

Perrin was ordered not to consume alcohol "excessively," not to use any narcotics or controlled substances, and to undergo drug testing as directed, according to court documents.

She also must report any contact with law enforcement to federal probation immediately, surrender her passport, not to move without permission, and not to obtain any firearms or weapons, according to court records.

Perrin is accused of diluting an 88-year-old hospice patient's morphine down to between 19 percent and 29 percent of the prescribed dosage, according to federal court documents.

While working at the Maplewood Care and Rehabilitation Center in Amesbury, Perrin tampered with three bottles of morphine sulfate prescribed to the hospice patient, according to the federal allegations.

She worked at Maplewood from March 18, 2015, until Jan. 4, 2018, according to records.

The patient Perrin cared for "was diagnosed with dementia, frequent seizures, a leg fracture and shingles, a painful viral infection,” according to court papers.

The woman was prescribed 5 mg of morphine sulfate to be administered three times daily, according to the records.

From Nov. 5, 2017, until Nov. 26, 2017, Perrin “tampered with three vials” of the woman’s morphine doses, according to the records.

Perrin “diluted Victim (one’s) morphine sulfate by removing morphine sulfate and replacing the removed liquid with another solution,” according to a document outlining “general allegations” in the case.

“The diluted vials contained only approximately 19 percent to 29 percent of the declared concentration of morphine sulfate. Until her death on Nov. 26, 2017, Victim (one) repeatedly received doses of the diluted morphine,” according to the documents.

The court documents do not specify what kind of liquid Perrin is accused of using to dilute the morphine doses.

— Jill Harmacinski


Police: Man drove school van while under influence of drugs

A 48-year-old man is charged with driving under the influence of drugs after the school van he was driving crashed while transporting a teenage student, police said.

Shawn McCarthy of Exeter, New Hampshire, is charged with driving under the influence of drugs, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, possession of a class E substance and reckless endangerment of a child, police said.

McCarthy was arrested just before 5:30 p.m. on May 16 in the area of Westgate Plaza, police said. He was arraigned the next day in Haverhill District Court, where he posted $1,000 bail and was released.

McCarthy's court-appointed lawyer, David Stuehr, said McCarthy takes prescribed medications for medical conditions including diabetes, and recently had the dosage of the diabetes medication increased, which caused him to wake up later than usual the day of his arrest.

McCarthy also regularly uses a sleeping pill at night, the lawyer said. McCarthy will check with his doctor about whether the medications are causing problems with him, the lawyer said.

According to a police report on file at the court, a 13-year-old girl told investigators that McCarthy picked her up at Bartlett Middle School in Lowell about 4:30 p.m. the day of the arrest, as he does every afternoon, to transport her to her mother's home on Primrose Street in Haverhill.

According to the report, the girl told police that during the trip from Lowell to Haverhill McCarthy was speeding on Interstate 495 and drifting between lanes, so she asked him to slow down.

The girl became so frightened that she asked him to pull over and he got off the highway at Exit 49, River Street in Haverhill, where the van hit a sign and sideswiped a guardrail, she told police, according to the report.

McCarthy eventually pulled into the Walgreens store parking lot on River Street, where the girl took his cell phone and called her parents, the report said.

Police were called to the scene, where the mother had arrived and placed her daughter in a car, according to the report. The mother told police that McCarthy was unable to form complete sentences, the report said. An officer on the scene said McCarthy's speech was slurred, according to the report.

McCarthy was arrested and the girl was taken to Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill for treatment of pain to her right shoulder and right knee, the police report said.

The van had extensive damage to the right front passenger side of the vehicle and the front right tire was falling off its rim, according to the police report. The van is registered to a Methuen company and has nothing to do with Haverhill schools, officials of the Haverhill School Department said.

According to the police report, McCarthy didn't appear to know the van had been in a crash when the officer arrived. McCarthy simply said the van had a flat tire, the officer said.

McCarthy had a small cut on his head but told the officer he was not injured, according to the report. He appeared to be lethargic, the report said.


— Mike LaBella


Local man indicted on 25 car breaks, larceny charges

A Haverhill man has been charged with breaking into cars and stealing cash, personal documents, a checkbook, a gun and ammunition and even a birthday card during a two-day stretch in March.

Nathan Whittier, 27, of 23 Warren St., was previously deemed a danger by a Haverhill District Court judge and remains held without bail at Middleton Jail, according to court records.

Whittier was indicted this week by the Essex County grand jury on 25 criminal counts ranging from breaking and entering at night and larceny of property valued over $1,200.

The indictments indicate the crimes happened March 22 and 23.

Whittier was also indicted on a single felony count of unarmed burglary and assault, stemming from a Feb. 3 incident at a Haverhill home, according to court records.

Whittier was arrested by Haverhill police at 10:51 a.m., March 27 and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and an outstanding warrant.

The arrest was made at 40 Central St., according to the Haverhill police log from that day.

Due to his indictments, Whittier now faces arraignment in Salem Superior Court where the penalties he faces if convicted will be more severe than at the district court level.

His arraignment on the 25 charges is scheduled for June 25 in Superior Court, according to Carrie Kimball, spokesperson for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Whittier is facing nine larceny charges for stealing cash, a ring, checkbooks, a firearm with ammunition, a gift card and birthday card, and photocopies of personal documents from multiple victims, according to the indictments.

Also, Whittier is charges with 15 counts of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle during the night time, a felony charge, according to the indictments.

— Jill Harmacinski


Governor to refile bill on sexual predators

Gov. Charlie Baker will ask lawmakers once again to limit the release of sexual predators from prison.

The move follows a recent ruling by the state's highest court clearing the way for the eventual release of Wayne Chapman.

Convicted of raping two Lawrence boys in 1975, Chapman is also a suspect in the 1976 disappearance of Angelo Puglisi Jr., 10, of Lawrence. He has admitted to raping as many as 100 boys in eight states and Canada.

Chapman, 71, has been in prison for more than 40 years, most recently under the state's civil commitment law, but the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled last week that he should be released immediately because two psychologists found he is no longer a threat to public safety.

In its decision, the court rejected arguments from the Baker administration and a lawyer representing several of Chapman's victims that the system of evaluating sexual predators who are locked up indefinitely under the state's civil commitment law is itself a threat to public safety.

Baker spokesman Brendan Moss said recently the governor will refile a bill that would set a mandatory life sentence for rape of a child with force by someone already convicted of sexual offenses, and overhaul the process for determining if a sexually dangerous person should be released.

Baker, a Republican, 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.

Moss said Baker "remains committed to working with the Legislature to strengthen Massachusetts law and keep dangerous criminals out of our communities."

Wendy Murphy, who represents Chapman's victims, had asked the Supreme Judicial Court to block his release and improve the process for evaluating the threat posed by sexual offenders. She called last week's ruling "outlandish and unconscionable" and said the court's reluctance to require additional layers of review for sex offenders endangers public safety.

"These examiners have no accountability to the public," she said. "They're private contractors who aren't subject to any kind of oversight or judicial review."

Murphy, a former prosecutor, said the Legislature needs to fix the law by approving Baker's legislation or hammer out a similar proposal that expands state oversight of the process.

Such a move is likely to face pushback from the state public defender's office, which opposed Baker's previous bill as "rank fear mongering" that is "unnecessary, unconstitutional and costly."

The state Department of Correction contracts with a Virginia-based company to oversee 150 sexually dangerous persons held under civil commitments. Most are housed at a medium security treatment center at the Bridgewater. Others are held in various state facilities elsewhere.

A 2009 Supreme Judicial Court ruling bars the state from keeping sex offenders in prison if at least two "qualified examiners" determine they’re no longer a threat.

In Chapman’s case, two qualified examiners said he was too old and sick to reoffend — a decision that paved the way for his release, despite opposition from a five-member board that reviewed his case.

Chapman's lawyer, Eric Tennen, has argued that the frail offender suffers from a host of ailments and is no longer a threat to the public. He told the SJC during a hearing in January that the process for reviewing the release of sex offenders is working as intended.

The court's 2009 decision involved George Johnstone, a Fall River man who'd pleaded guilty 17 years earlier to indecent assault and battery on a child. Johnstone served a 10-year sentence but was then held under a law allowing the state to keep custody of sex offenders deemed likely to reoffend.

Examiners with backgrounds in dealing with sex offenders testified that he was no longer dangerous, allowing for his release.

The Supreme Judicial Court rejected efforts to keep him in custody anyway, setting a precedent that requires the testimony of at least one such examiner that someone is sexually dangerous to prompt a trial on whether they should stay incarcerated.

More than 100 sex offenders have since been released under the Johnstone ruling, according to a review of state data. In most if not all cases, the Department of Correction and a five-member Community Access Board that reviews cases of sex offenders who are civilly committed disagreed with the conclusions of one or more examiners, according to state reports. But because of the Supreme Judicial Court ruling, the state has been powerless to stop their release.

In Chapman's case, he is still being held in MCI-Shirley, awaiting trial on new charges that he masturbated in front of prison staff. His trial is scheduled for June.

Murphy said the fact that Chapman reoffended even after two medical examiners cleared him for release shows the review process is "dangerously flawed."

"He couldn't even wait to get out prison before reoffending," she said. "If that isn't proof that the system is broken, I don't know what is."

— Christian M. Wade




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