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GannettUSA Today

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oops, a murder suspect is free

How could a man accused of two murders and attempted murder be released by county jail authorities after being held on trespassing and mischief charges? That's something the father whose son was shot to death is wondering, fearful that the suspect will seek out him or witnesses. Mercer County jail officials and the state Parole Board had better find out.

The initial explanation involves oh-too-typical finger-pointing. A parole officer decided the suspect was eligible to be released based on time already served on the lesser charges, provided the man face burglary charges elsewhere. But the parole officer didn't know about the pending murder charges - something county jail personnel are responsible for advising the parole board about. So when a relative posted the $200 bail on the burglary charges, the man was freed. It's doubtful he would have met the much higher bail - $2 million - on the murder and attempted murder charges.

The parole board and county jail folks - in Mercer and elsewhere - have to get their act together. It shouldn't be hard for people on both levels of law enforcement to access information about any pending charges or active warrants against anyone eligible to be released from custody. There's got to be a database with that information. If not, there should be.

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