June 1, 2011 -- Convicted child killer Michael Woodmansee, whose eligibility for release for good behavior caused a national uproar, will instead head to a Rhode Island mental institution after he leaves prison Sept. 1.
Erik Wallin, attorney for John Foreman, the father of Woodmansee's young victim, said the news is bittersweet. "There is an element of relief, although he would have preferred he serve the rest of his sentence."
Back in March, news of Woodmansee's impending release from prison stirred controversy when it was learned that, in accordance with Rhode Island sentencing guidelines, 52-year-old Woodmansee had been able to slice a full 12 years off his 40-year prison sentence for good behavior.
The details of his crime are horrific. In 1975, Woodmansee killed and mutilated the body of his 5-year-old neighbor, Jason Foreman, in South Kingstown, R.I. Woodmansee cut up the boy's body and kept the bones in his room for years before being arrested in 1982.
Woodmansee recorded details of his crime in a journal. The booklet was reportedly so graphic that the court ordered it sealed. South Kingstown Police Chief Vincent Vespia, one of only a handful of people who have read it, said: "I will not tell you what was in it, but I will tell you that it was a horrible, horrible crime, among the most gruesome investigations I have ever participated in and I've been around the block a few times."
In 1983, Woodmansee was sentenced to 40 years in prison following a plea deal.
Earlier this year, the Foreman family learned that Woodmansee would be eligible for parole and John Foreman, Jason's father, threatened to kill Woodmansee upon his release.
Back in 1983 when their son's killer pled guilty to the crime in a plea agreement, John Foreman said he had no idea Woodmansee would be eligible for early release if he earned time for following institutional rules set down by the prison.
After hearing the news back in March, John Foreman said, "I got real mad, I got angry. I got upset. I got scared. All of these emotions were going through my head…I didn't know there was such a thing called early release. Parole, yes. But not early release."
In the wake of the uproar, the state Department of Corrections ordered two forensic psychiatrists to evaluate the convicted child-killer using personal interviews and Woodmansee's previously sealed journal pages.
Last Friday, according to the Rhode Island DOC, both psychiatrists confirmed that Woodmansee met the criteria to be involuntarily committed to a mental institution after his release. But, before that could happen, Woodmansee, on the advice of his attorney, agreed to a voluntary commitment at the Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston.
Should Woodmansee change his mind and wish to leave the locked facility, according to Wallin, Woodmansee must file a notice of intent to leave and a court hearing would take place. In addition, every six months Woodmansee will undergo a court-supervised review.
Although Woodmansee's future may seem settled, the furor over his reduced sentence is far from over. The so-called "good time statute" where prisoners can receive up to a third off their sentence for good behavior, is under review in Rhode Island.
"It [the law] existed for a long time and nobody really understood the ramifications," said Wallin.
The Rhode Island state Senate passed a version of a bill that would eliminate "good time" for certain crimes. A similar House bill is pending in Rhode Island.
The Foremans have helped push for the legislation. "It's been very difficult for them. Time has lessened the loss of his son a bit ….this has pushed it back to the forefront for them and they struggle with that," said Wallin. "They are not where they were before this whole thing happened."