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Judge to decide fate of notorious sex offender

NORTH ATTLEBORO - A prosecutor called the latest incident involving a notorious sex offender "eerily" reminiscent of an act that sent him to prison a decade ago, and now a judge must decide whether to put him back behind bars.

At that time, when he was caught indecently touching a 6-year-old girl he had lured away from her mother at Emerald Square mall in 1996, Timothy Vacher fought with Filene's store security officers who witnessed the incident.

But after serving prison time - and now facing new allegations - Vacher admitted Thursday that he violated probation by leering at two young girls earlier this month at the North Attleboro Target store, and did not fight the latest charge.

New Bedford Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre will decide today whether to send Vacher, a dangerous sex offender who lives at 31 Sumner St. in North Attleboro, back to prison or allow him to remain on probation with electronic monitoring.

The parents of the two young girls, ages 10 and 8, his probation officer and a prosecutor, want Vacher back behind bars. But Vacher's lawyer wants the judge to consider keeping him on probation and monitored by a GPS device. Vacher, a Level 3 sex offender - considered by the state to be the most likely to offend again - admitted approaching the girls at separate times at Target as they shopped with their mothers.

Unlike the Emerald Square assault in 1996, authorities and the mothers said, Vacher did not speak or touch the girls.

One of the conditions of his probation was that he have no unsupervised contact with minor children, authorities said.

Vacher was arrested Aug. 8 and is currently being held in jail without bail pending the judge's decision.

"I truly believe that if I wasn't there, something would have occurred," said a 39-year-old Attleboro woman and mother of the 10-year-old girl.

The woman said she yelled at her daughter to get away from Vacher after he bent down on one knee about a foot away and stared at her daughter at eye level in the shoe aisle at Target.

"Even when I yelled at her, he didn't flinch," said the woman, who attended the hearing with her daughter and spoke to The Sun Chronicle, along with the mother of the 8-year-old girl on the condition their names would not be used.

The women, who did not know each other before the incidents, said Vacher did not appear to be shopping and never made eye contact with them. She said Vacher was "mesmerized" by their daughters and seemed oblivious to them.

"I was thinking, 'He's acting bizarre, strange,'" said a 35-year-old Cumberland, R.I. woman and mother of the 8-year-old, whom Thacher approached in the toy aisle.

The woman was so concerned, she said she approached other parents with children in the store. "I want you to know," she said she told them, "there is a strange man in here."

The incidents were reported to Target employees, one of whom followed Vacher into a wooded area, where he retrieved a backpack and fled.

The parents later notified police, who obtained a store security video which officials said showed Vacher leaving the store. He was identified by detectives Daniel Arrighi and Michael Elliott, the victims and store employees.

Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Letourneau and Probation Officer Christopher Hoeth asked the judge to send Vacher to jail for 2 1/2 years, the maximum he could be held.

"The situation with these girls is eerily similar to the matter he was incarcerated for," Letourneau said.

In November 1996, Vacher was arrested for several incidents at the mall, including briefly luring a 6-year-old girl away from her mother and brother at the former Filene's long enough to take her behind a display.

Security officers said they witnessed Vacher touch her hips and lick the girl's shoes before they pounced on him. A portion of the incident was captured on a store security videotape.

He was given a 9- to 10-year sentence and other concurrent sentences for lewd behavior involving other girls at the mall the same day.

In court Thursday, Vacher's lawyer, John J. Connors of Fall River, asked the judge to keep his client on probation and monitored by a GPS device.

He said the public would be safer because if he goes back to jail for 2 1/2 years, he could get out on parole in 18 months and will no longer be restricted under probation.

"The concern is that he not go to the mall," Connors said, adding that Vacher has been employed at an Attleboro auto shop since his release from prison and lives with his father.

But Letourneau and Hoeth said GPS monitoring has its limits and technical glitches. They also said Vacher's main means of transportation is a bicycle and there are many schools, stores and playgrounds where children are located, making GPS monitoring of Vacher difficult.

Vacher was on probation in 1996 for exposing himself to teenage girls in North Attleboro at the time he was arrested for the mall assault.

He had been convicted of open and gross behavior in 1995, and convicted for the mall incidents in 1998.
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