Sex offender slices off GPS bracelet, then flees

ARLINGTON — No one noticed when high-risk sex offender, Eric Eugene Hartwell, withdrew $1,500 from a bank account.

The alarm wasn’t sounded when he received a FedEx package of clothes from California on March 19.

But on March 20, when a roommate at the Arlington boarding house where Hartwell was staying found an electronic monitoring bracelet behind a living room chair, a nationwide warrant was issued for the convicted child rapist’s arrest.

A quick check of a computer system revealed that Hartwell, 46, had cut off the global positioning system ankle bracelet at 4:05 a.m., court documents show.

“If it’s cut off, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work,” said Chad Lewis, a state Department of Corrections spokesman. “It worked exactly like it’s supposed to.”

By the end of the day, law enforcement nationwide knew to keep an eye for the 6-foot-2, 200 pound, redheaded Hartwell.

Hartwell, is the second level 3 sex offender in Snohomish County to cut off a GPS tracking bracelet.

About a year ago, David J. Torrence was ordered by state officials to sleep under a bridge on U.S. 2 near Snohomish. He was found months later in Arkansas after snipping off his bracelet and ditching the device in Lynnwood.

In both cases, tampering with the bracelet was a giant clue that the offender was up to no good, Lewis said.

The devices also warn corrections officials if offenders visit prohibited areas, such as playgrounds, or lie to supervisors about their travels. About 120 offenders statewide are outfitted with the electronic gear.

They aren’t iron clad, Lewis said. That’s because the bracelets need to be removable in case the offender requires medical attention.

Now, a newly formed special unit of the U.S. Marshal Service that tracks sex offenders is hunting for Hartwell, said Tom Lanier, a senior inspector based in Seattle.

Hartwell has a history of failing to register, court documents show. Police looked for him from October 2002 until his arrest in Orange County, Calif., in January 2007. During that time, Hartwell lived and worked in 16 states, according to court records.

“Mr. Hartwell has become a poster child for sex offenders,” Lanier said. “We will be working diligently to arrest him no matter where he flees.”

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