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Originally published April 2, 2009 at 3:39 PM | Page modified April 2, 2009 at 10:04 PM

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Captured: Sex offender who cut off ankle bracelet

A convicted child rapist who disappeared from Snohomish County last month after cutting off his GPS ankle bracelet has been captured in Texas by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A convicted child rapist who disappeared from Snohomish County last month after cutting off his GPS ankle bracelet has been captured in Texas by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Eric Eugene Hartwell, 46, who was convicted of raping his neighbor's 6-year-old daughter and of trying to rape a pregnant teen five years later, was apprehended in Carrollton, Texas, around noon after a short chase on foot.

"Mr. Hartwell was not very happy to be going back to jail," said Senior Inspector Tom Lanier, who heads the regional U.S. Marshals Service's efforts to apprehend sex offenders under the new Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

Lanier said that Hartwell will be prosecuted in federal court this time.

That will ensure that Hartwell will receive a longer prison sentence and that he will be under extremely strict supervision once he's released, Lanier said.

Lanier said that Hartwell was captured because he followed the same habits he has used in the past, traveling from state to state to avoid having to register as a sex offender.

"Mr. Hartwell has a routine," Lanier said. "He has ways he likes to travel, places he likes to stay and ways he likes to work, but he made a mistake because you can't fix stupid."

Lanier would not specify the mistake Hartwell made that led to his capture.

"Good police work" led to information that Hartwell was in Texas on Wednesday evening, Lanier said. By Thursday morning, Hartwell was under surveillance and by noon he was in custody.

He is being held at the Dallas County Jail on a warrant for escape from custody and failure to register as a sex offender.

According to court documents and information from the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, Hartwell was convicted of raping a 6-year-old girl in 1991.

He was given a 6 ½ -year prison sentence that was suspended on condition he complete a sex-offender treatment program.

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Five years later, Hartwell was sentenced to more than four years in prison for attempting to rape a pregnant 17-year-old he picked up hitchhiking, according to court records.

After his release in 2000, he racked up a series of parole violations and convictions for failing to register as a sex offender.

He served one month in jail in early 2007 for failing to register as a sex offender and then fled the state. A warrant for his arrest was issued and he was captured by the U.S. Marshals Service in California later that year.

He was released from custody again on March 13 and fitted with a GPS monitor, according to the Department of Corrections (DOC).

According to DOC officials, GPS locaters are designed to be cut off in case of a medical emergency. But the locaters also transmit a signal to the offender's DOC field office that it has been tampered with.

"Without GPS, we probably would not have known for several days that Hartwell had left the area," said DOC Secretary Eldon Vail. "This is a case in which the locator did exactly what it's designed to do."

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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