A convicted murderer was recaptured by police Friday after the man was mistakenly freed because of a paperwork error.
Steven L. Robbins, 44, was rearrested in a house in southern Illinois without incident three days after he was freed by the Indiana Department of Correction.
Authorities didn’t offer many details about their flub, but they did say they were able to track Robbins -- who is in the midst of a 60-year murder sentence -- by interviewing his friends and family. In May 2002, he was convicted in a fatal shooting of a 21-year-old man who intervened in a public fight between Robbins and his wife, Nicole. The man, Rutland Melton, apparently enraged Robbins when he told him he should not hit women.
Robbins was identified by a tattoo on his neck that reads “Nicole.” His first projected release date is June 29, 2029.
“We're not ducking the fact we dropped the ball. We made mistakes,” Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Tom Dart told the Associated Press. “The public deserves much more. We’re going to find out what went wrong here. ... It’s our fault, but we move 100,000 people a day, and it’s all done with paper.”
The confusion began when Robbins was transported from an Indianapolis prison to Illinois for a court hearing on drug and weapons charges. Both charges were dropped, but he was scheduled to return to the prison to serve the remainder of his current sentence.
“He had no intention to attempt to escape,” said public defender Todd Chatman.
Cook County Sheriff’s Department representative Frank Bilecki said the fugitive was wearing a black jacket over a gray hoodie sweatshirt with dark blue jeans and green gym shoes when he was apprehended, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“He was found at the home of an acquaintance, watching TV,” Bilecki said. “They caught him totally off guard.”