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Killer denied parole for third time in slaying of 14-year-old

Rod Matthews spoke March 29 at his hearing before the Massachusetts Parole Board. Matthews was denied parole for the third time and must remain behind bars for five years before again seeking parole.
Rod Matthews spoke March 29 at his hearing before the Massachusetts Parole Board. Matthews was denied parole for the third time and must remain behind bars for five years before again seeking parole.(Art Illman/Metrowest Daily News/Pool)

For the third time, teen killer Rod Matthews was denied his freedom by the Massachusetts Parole Board, which ruled he must remain behind bars for another five years before he can ask again for release from state prison.

Matthews was 14 years old on Nov. 20, 1986, when he convinced Canton High School classmate Shaun Ouillette to follow him into a wooded area, where he beat the 14-year-old to death with a baseball bat. The boy’s body was discovered there by searchers three weeks later.

During those three weeks, Matthews twice brought friends to view the body.

Matthews was 15 when he was convicted of second-degree murder as an adult and given a life sentence with the possibility of parole, one of the first juveniles to be given an adult life sentence in Massachusetts.

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Earlier this year, a now-bald Matthews appeared before the board for the third time. He apologized for murdering Ouillette and asked for his freedom, a request opposed by Ouillette's mother, Jeanne Quinn. She told the board she forgives him but believes he is still prone to violence.

In a five-page decision made public Tuesday, the board unanimously concluded Matthews should remain in prison for at least another five years.

“The Board is of the opinion that Mr. Matthews has not demonstrated a level of rehabilitative progress that would make his release compatible with the welfare of society,” the panel wrote. “The Board believes that a longer period of positive institutional adjustment and programming would be beneficial to Mr. Matthews’ rehabilitation.”

Canton Police Chief Kenneth Berkowitz also opposed Matthews’ release before the board and in an opinion piece published in the Globe in April in which he argued Matthews has “predatory, diabolical tendencies as well as psychopathic traits.’’

In a statement on Tuesday, Berkowitz said: “Rod’s actions continue to victimize Shaun’s family. Everytime he goes for parole he reopens the wounds that his heinous act has caused so many people. In my opinion he is where he belongs, prison. The risk that he will reoffend is too great to take a chance on letting him out.”

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But James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family professor of criminology, law, and public policy at Northeastern University, on Tuesday lamented the board’s rejection. Fox knows Matthews, testified in favor of his release, and argued for his release in his own Globe piece.

“I am disappointed but not surprised. He’s clearly not the same person he was 30 years ago,’’ Fox said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “He’s changed dramatically, and unfortunately that’s not being given enough weight, as opposed to the severity of the crime, the public response, and the family’s response.’’

He said parole should be based on the crime itself and on what the inmate has done since committing it. In Matthews’ case, he said, the change he has undergone is not being properly recognized.

While acknowledging that Ouillette’s mother is an articulate voice for her murdered son and has every right to oppose Matthews’ release, Fox said the board must also give significant value to what he has done to rehabilitate himself.

He also said that because the crime was high-profile, so too are parole hearings, a factor that works against Matthews because it has a chilling effect on the board.

In a statement, Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, who inherited the case and opposed Matthews’ release, said the board acted “wisely.’’

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“Release on parole is granted only when it is compatible with the welfare of society,’’ Morrissey said. “That is not the case with Rod Matthews in 2016 — and it remains to be seen if it ever will be.”


John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.