The presidential candidate said a judge he appointed while Massachusetts governor should resign because she released without bail a convicted killer now charged with murder in the deaths of a Graham couple.

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DERRY, N.H. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Saturday a judge he appointed while Massachusetts governor should resign because she released without bail a convicted killer now charged with murder in the deaths of a Graham, Pierce County, couple.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman to free Daniel Tavares Jr. “showed an inexplicable lack of good judgment in a hearing that decided to put someone on the street who had not only in the past been convicted of manslaughter, but had threatened the lives of other individuals and was a flight risk,” Romney said during a campaign stop in Derry.

“And I think on that basis, that despite her record as being a law-and-order prosecutor, her lack of judgment suggests that she needs to resign from that post.”

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Tuttman declined to comment, but Joan Kenney, speaking for the court, said the judge is competent and qualified. “Her decision was based on the bail statute and the facts of the case before her,” Kenney said.

Tavares is accused in the “execution-style” slayings last weekend of Brian and Beverly Mauck, of Graham, who lived near Tavares and his wife, Jennifer Tavares. According to charging papers, Tavares was insulted by Brian Mauck, 30, when he tried to collect a $50 debt and so he shot him in the face. Prosecutors said Beverly Mauck, 28, witnessed the shooting and was shot when she tried to flee.

Pierce County prosecutors charged Tavares, 41, on Tuesday with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the Nov. 17 slayings. He also was charged with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm because, as a felon, he cannot carry a handgun.

He is being held without bail in the Pierce County Jail.

The case has echoes of a presidential campaign controversy two decades ago involving a Massachusetts felon named Willie Horton. Horton, serving a life term for murder, was granted a weekend furlough under a program overseen by then-Gov. Michael Dukakis. Horton escaped to Maryland, where he robbed and raped a woman.

A TV ad in the 1988 campaign associating Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee, with the incident hurt him in his race against Republican George H.W. Bush, who won the election.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Tavares, while imprisoned in Massachusetts, had threatened to kill Romney and other state officials. The threat was made in a letter intercepted by prison officials in February 2006.

Romney was in the Seattle area on Monday and was warned that Tavares might be in the Washington state area, Fehrnstrom said.

In June, Tavares completed a 16-year sentence for manslaughter for fatally stabbing his mother, but prosecutors tried to keep him in prison on accusations that he assaulted two prison guards. A district court judge approved bail of $50,000. Tuttman overturned that decision in July and freed Tavares on personal recognizance.

The transcript of that hearing shows that prosecutors did not mention Tavares’ alleged threats against Romney and others and did not ask the judge for a separate hearing on whether he would be dangerous if released. Instead, they emphasized his history of violence and asked that, if released, he be monitored with a GPS device.

The judge declined to impose a monitoring system, saying she was presented with no evidence that he was a flight risk, and ordered Tavares freed on condition that he call probation officers three times a week, live with his sister and work.

Probation spokeswoman Coria Holland refused to tell the Boston Herald if Tavares fulfilled any of his court-ordered obligations. He failed to show up in court in Boston on July 23.

Authorities said Tavares left Massachusetts and moved to Graham to marry Jennifer, whom he met through a prison pen-pals program. According to Pierce County records, the couple were married July 30.

Seizing on the Mauck case, one of Romney’s GOP presidential rivals criticized the former governor’s record on crime.

“The governor is going to have to explain his appointment, and the judge is going to have to explain her decision,” Rudy Giuliani said during a stop in Laconia, N.H.

Giuliani pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket that listed FBI crime statistics for Massachusetts while Romney was governor. Homicides were up 7.5 percent and robbery was up 12 percent, he said.

“He had an increase in murder and violent crime while he was governor,” Giuliani said. “So it’s not so much the isolated situation, which he and the judge will have to explain; he’s kind of thrown her under the bus, so it’s hard to know how this is all going to come out. But the reality is, he did not have a record of reducing violent crime.”

Edward Ryan Jr., a past president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, said the judge made the correct call based on state law “and for Romney to call for her to resign is nothing more than political expediency.”

“If Romney had any courage, he would stand up and say this judge did the right thing,” Ryan said. Prosecutors “offered no facts other than to refer to his record” in arguing for him to be held on bail.

Tavares was accused of spitting on a guard in February 2006 and of hitting a guard in December 2005. His lawyer told the hearing that prosecutors waited more than a year to bring the charges against him as a way of keeping him behind bars past his manslaughter sentence.

Romney appointed Tuttman in April 2006. Fehrnstrom said Tuttman, a career prosecutor, had a reputation that suggested she would be a “law-and-order” judge.

Material from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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