- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BALTIMORE (AP) - A Maryland man awaiting trial for murder is at large after he was accidentally released from a Baltimore jail on Friday in what the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has admitted was a mistake.

Rodriquez Purnell, 30, was erroneously released Friday from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center in Baltimore. He was awaiting trial in the shooting death of 27-year-old Terrance Rheubottom on St. Patrick’s Day last year in Baltimore. He also had been convicted of assaulting a corrections worker.

The Department of Corrections said in a statement on Tuesday that it erred in releasing Purnell. The department said staff members are required to perform multiple checks on inmates before they are released, and that Purnell was let go because of a breakdown in that protocol.

“Release procedures were not followed according to the policy,” the statement read, “and the investigation will determine exactly which procedures were not adhered to, and whether any policies need to be changed.”

Purnell was not considered missing over the weekend because the department believed he’d been properly released.

The department said it contacted the police after a citizen called in a tip. A member of the slain man’s family said on Tuesday that another relative contacted the jail after receiving phone calls from people in the community who had spotted Purnell.

Spokesman Mark Vernarelli said the department’s Intelligence and Investigative Division will conduct an internal investigation into Purnell’s release.

Del. John Cluster, a Baltimore County Republican and former police officer, on Tuesday questioned why corrections officials didn’t realize Purnell had been freed earlier, noting that prison protocol is to conduct a nightly head count of all inmates.

“If this is done nightly, how could such a dangerous person not come up missing immediately?” Cluster said in a news release.

Purnell’s murder trial is scheduled to begin next month.



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