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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Judge Releases Au Pair From Prison

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts -- Louise Woodward is free, but the 19-year-old English au pair is far from home and may not get there for a long time.

She is still tethered to Massachusetts.

The same judge who turned her loose barred her from leaving the state until a court says so, and the appeal of her manslaughter conviction could take up to two years. Her lawyers and friends, meanwhile, were mulling over a bid to have her declared innocent for killing 8-month-old Matthew Eappen.

For now, at least, Woodward is free to do what she wants for the first time in more than nine months.

Judge Hiller Zobel on Monday sentenced Woodward to the 279 days she served in prison since her arrest Feb. 5 and ordered her released to bring a "compassionate conclusion'' to the case.

The ruling angered Sunil and Deborah Eappen, Matthew's parents.

"What is Judge Zobel thinking? What does that say about justice? Does it say that you can kill a baby, and that your youth and inexperience with cranky babies counts for more than a child's life?'' Deborah Eappen said in Tuesday's editions of The Boston Globe.

Sunil Eappen said he wondered how the judge could find Woodward guilty of manslaughter, but set her free.

"What if Matthew had been his grandson?'' Eappen asked. "Doesn't he get it? Someone killed Matthew. He acknowledges on the one hand that someone killed Matthew, and on the other hand he frees her. It makes no sense.''

Zobel, who could have also affirmed the Oct. 30 jury verdict, ordered a new trial or declared Woodward innocent, said she had been "a little rough'' with Matthew, causing his skull fracture. But Zobel said she had not acted with malice, an element required to reach the murder conviction.

Woodward, who showed no emotion as the ruling was read, denied responsibility for Matthew's death, as she had during her three-week trial.

"I maintain what I said at my last sentencing: that I'm innocent,'' said Woodward, who had no comment as she left the courthouse with her parents for an undisclosed location.

The ruling stunned prosecutors.

"In all my years of prosecuting cases this is the most bizarre series of events I have ever seen, perhaps the most bizarre series of events that anyone has ever seen in this courthouse,'' said Tom Reilly, the Middlesex County district attorney. "I'm sickened by what happened,'' said Reilly, who pointed out the au pair had been behind bars just 17 days more than the 262 days that Matthew lived.