- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Virginia's parole system does not quickly process minor violations, which allowed the man under investigation in the stabbing death of 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett to bond out from Fairfax County jail last month.
County officials released Gregory Devon Murphy, 29, on bond June 9 after arresting him for failing to appear for a court hearing on a drug charge. They did not know there was an outstanding warrant for Murphy's arrest for parole violation in Alexandria.
Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Barry said Monday that if his office, which oversees the jail, had known Murphy was wanted by Alexandria on a parole violation, Murphy would have been transferred to Alexandria rather than being released.
"There was no way for us to know that he was wanted for parole violation because that information was not made available to us," Sheriff Barry said. "It would have been nice to have that kind of information. It certainly would have helped."
Alexandria police have not named Murphy as a suspect or charged him in connection with Kevin's slaying.
The state's two-tiered method of issuing warrants for parole violations rests on the assumption that most violators won't go far. The arrest warrant obtained by the local parole officer can be applied only within the local jurisdiction where a parolee is being supervised and is not valid anywhere else. In Murphy's case, he was supervised in Alexandria because his parents live there and they agreed to look after him.
If enough time passes, however, and the parolee has not checked in, the parole officer files a request with the Virginia Parole Board in Richmond to issue a second, broader warrant that would make the information available to all police and federal jurisdictions nationwide through the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC).
"All that takes a little time, so by the time our warrant is entered, someone has usually picked him up and he is already being held," said James Jenkins, chairman of the Virginia Parole Board.
Yet parole officials say the system works and worked as it was supposed to in Murphy's case.
"People usually stay close to home," Mr. Jenkins said. "They're touching base with their family or friends. These people don't have Swiss bank accounts or travel around the world. They're living off family members. And in [Murphy's] case, that's where we got him. It just makes sense to stay local for a while."
The Alexandria Probation and Parole Office, which is handling Murphy's parole, declined to comment and referred all questions to the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Jim Camache, assistant director of the state Corrections Department, said yesterday local parole officers must leave it to the state Corrections Department to enter any warrant information into the NCIC database. "They don't do that locally at all," Mr. Camache said.
A rundown of Murphy's case shows just how complex the process can be:
* April 7: Murphy was released on mandatory parole after serving more than six years for malicious wounding, petty larceny and obstructing justice.
State law requires the Parole Board to release convicted felons from state prison six months before their scheduled release date. Felons remain under parole supervision for the duration of their time, or until the state Parole Board decides the felon no longer needs supervision, Mr. Jenkins said.
* April 10: Murphy reported to the Alexandria Probation and Parole Office.
* April 17: Murphy's parole case was assigned to Alexandria parole officer Frederick Rockwell. Murphy was arrested on a drug charge in Fairfax County.
* April 19: The day Kevin was killed, Mr. Rockwell and Murphy made their one and only contact, by telephone, to schedule a meeting for the next day.
* April 20: Murphy failed to keep his meeting with Mr. Rockwell.
* April 24: Fairfax County judge issued a bench warrant for Murphy after Murphy failed to appear for a court hearing on cocaine possession.
* May 11: After three unsuccessful attempts to find Murphy, Mr. Rockwell issued an arrest warrant for him. Murphy didn't inform Mr. Rockwell of his April 17 arrest on a drug charge in Fairfax County and failed to keep an April 20 meeting with him, which were two conditions of his parole.
* June 9: Fairfax County authorities picked up Murphy on a bench warrant. Murphy was released later that day on a $2,500 bond after jail officials conducted a routine criminal background check and found no pending violations against him in other jurisdictions.
* June 19: The state Parole Board issued its arrest warrant for Murphy, at which point the information was entered into the NCIC databank.
* June 25: Alexandria police arrested Murphy on the parole violation charge. Several days later, he was linked by DNA evidence to the cab Kevin's killer used to flee minutes after the April 19 slaying.
* Monday: A Fairfax County grand jury indicted Murphy on the drug charge, five days after a judge dismissed it.
According to conditions of his parole, Murphy was supposed to stay with his parents, who at the time of the killing lived five blocks from the front yard where Kevin was attacked.
Murphy also was required to check in with his parole officer and be electronically monitored while staying at his parents' house, Mr. Jenkins said. But because his parents were moving, the parole office installed the system in the parents' new home, Mr. Jenkins said.
Mr. Jenkins said Murphy was wanted only on technical violations not on a new crime and was not considered to be a danger or threat to society. He said the Parole Board expedites the process for issuing a second warrant in cases in which a suspect is considered a threat.
Police agencies often use the NCIC database to see if a person they have arrested is wanted in another jurisdiction.
"It certainly makes sense to add that kind of information into the database," Sheriff Barry said. "If someone is wanted, then it's good for other jurisdictions to know that."

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