After spending 17 years in prison, a convicted child killer — and suspected arsonist — is now out of prison. And while Shirley Winters is now confined to a psychiatric center in the North Country, it's possible she could be free later this year.

That's a terrifying thought to many, including the man who helped put her away.

“She likes to set fires, and she likes to kill kids,” Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said of Winters.

Fitzpatrick is holding nothing back.

“You can't cure whatever psychosis she has in her mind,” he added.

In 2007, Winters was initially charged with the 1979 murders of two of her children. However, a year later in 2008, she would plead guilty to manslaughter charges, but only in connection with the death of her other son, a 5-month-old. 

She received 25 years.

“The reason we took a manslaughter plea was because the case at the time, we took the plea was two decades old,” Fitzpatrick said.

But that was not the only reason, because just two years earlier, in 2006, Winters was charged in St. Lawrence County with drowning a 2-year-old in a house she was staying at.

The overwhelming thought was she'd get a life sentence for that.

She did not.

"In fact, she got concurrent time with Onondaga County, which was distressing to me,” Fitzpatrick said of her sentencing in St. Lawrence County.

And not only that, but a few days ago, Winters was released from prison seven years early for good behavior.

“So, you figure, OK, we'll worry about this 20 years from now. Well, now here we are 20 years from now, and I'm worried about it,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick says Winters is confined to psychiatric center for the time being, but that does not make him feel any better about it.

“I’ve seen nothing in any of the reports that I've read, or the conversations that I've had, to indicate that she's changed,” he said.

However, if she is able to convince one of the two psychologists assigned to her case that she has changed, she is rehabilitated, she could be a free woman.

“I would say that any doctor that examined her, do you feel comfortable with this woman babysitting your children? And if no, why not?” Fitzpatrick added.

Fitzpatrick says he believes there's a plan in place, that if she were to get out, she would reside in the North Country.

Fitzpatrick pointed out Winters is now 66.

“You figure, well, what harm could she do? She's a nice looking, sweet lady, and you might be imposing a death sentence on your child," he said.

If Winters were to be released, she would be on parole for roughly six years.

Fitzpatrick said that’s not enough.

It’s believed Winters has been connected with more than a handful of deaths and dozens of fires.

He said there needs to be legislative changes to expand civil commitment — being legally held in a psychiatric center, even against a person’s wishes — which is in place for serial sex offenders.