It was Wednesday, June 12, 1991 and Jackie Galloway, 36, had plans to meet a friend for lunch. But when the friend arrived at Galloway’s Sarasota home, the front door was unlocked and her purse lay on her coach — and Galloway was nowhere to be found.
The following afternoon, Galloway’s decomposing body was found wrapped in a beige bed sheet in a lot 10 miles from downtown Sarasota. A noose had been wrapped around her neck, and her wrists showed signs of having been bound. Her artificial nails had all been torn off.
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Authorities eventually discovered that the slaying of Galloway, a waitress who cleaned homes, was linked to the Sept. 7, 1990 sexual assault of a 30-year-old single mother who was attacked in her bed.
Galloway’s 25-year-old neighbor John Waterman was arrested after police found that, as a chauffeur, he had access to a car with similar fibers to those found on Galloway’s body — and detectives found a length of cord similar to what was used on her in Waterman’s personal vehicle.
Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department
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A search of that car and Waterman’s home uncovered a .45 semiautomatic pistol, three pieces of cord (one with loops at one end), a beige sheet and two beige pillowcases and a gray bag with a black hood, plastic gloves and gray driving gloves.
Inside Waterman’s home investigators discovered the Patricia Cornwell thriller, Postmortem. Some of the book’s passages eerily mirrored Galloway’s killing.
Waterman ultimately pleaded no contest to both Galloway’s killing and the sexual assault and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
However, in 2011, after serving 20 years — just 44 percent of his sentence — Waterman was let out of prison for good behavior and gain time he earned by participating in classes and working. However, he was immediately civilly committed to a mental health correctional facility, where he would remain until a doctor deemed him safe to reenter society.
Nowadays, “The law now is that you have to serve 85% of your sentence,” Florida Assistant State Attorney Ryan Felix tells PEOPLE.
Had Waterman served 85 percent of his sentence, he would have been released to the general public in 2030, says Felix, who added that a law passed in 1998 allowing for involuntary civil commitment kept Waterman behind bars for eight additional years.
Acey Harper/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty
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On Monday, a Florida circuit court judge ruled that Waterman no longer met the criteria to be civilly committed based on the opinion of a doctor who determined he was unlikely to reoffend.
“The agreed-upon doctor in this matter is of the opinion within a reasonable degree of psychological certainty that [Waterman’s] mental condition has so changed as a result of sexual offender treatment that it is safe for [Waterman] to be released to an outpatient sexual offender treatment program and that he will not engage of acts of sexual violence,” the judge wrote in a release order obtained by PEOPLE.
Evaluated by New Doctors
Susan Chapman, a lawyer and former president of the Hudson Bayou Neighborhood Association, where Waterman and the victims lived, tells PEOPLE Waterman was evaluated by a new doctor this year.
“Every year, the doctor assigned to the case recommends that he is not subject to rehabilitation, but this year the doctor had retired and they had new doctors on the case, and they said that he was subject to release,” she says.
Waterman, who can be released at any time, has agreed to take part in an outpatient sexual offender treatment program in Orlando. As part of the program, he must submit to at least twice yearly polygraph tests and must register as a sex offender.
“The community is kind of up in arms,” says Chapman.
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“He’s a rapist and a murderer,” says Rebecca Tharpe, a neighborhood resident. “He’s also a kidnapper, because he kidnapped her and he raped her and he murdered her and he pulled her fingernails off…He’s still a very viable man. And these crimes typically are not about the sex, it’s about the violence and the power. I think the fact that he’s been released, it’s terrible.”
“Everybody needs to know how dangerous this person has been,” she tells PEOPLE. “And the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. … It’s just a tragedy that [victims and victim’s family members] feel like they have to keep reliving this. They don’t get justice.”
Chapman says she plans to keep the public aware of Waterman and “follow him like a hawk, and if he shows up here, we’re going to keep our eye on him,” she says. “I just hope he doesn’t reoffend.”
Waterman’s attorney could not be reached for comment.