LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) High school honor student Lily Burke may have lost her life due to a deadly mistake in record-keeping.
The Los Angeles Times reports the man charged with killing the 17-year-old girl in downtown Los Angeles may have been free because of a clerical error that misstated his criminal record.
The newspaper reported Monday on its Website that authorities did not know that Charles Samuel was eligible to be prosecuted under the state's three-strikes law when he was convicted of burglary in San Bernardino County in 1997.
The paper says a San Bernardino County district attorney's official said he believed prosecutors would have filed the burglary charge as a third strike had Samuel's "rap sheet" properly shown that he already had previous convictions that counted as two strikes rather than one.
Under the three-strikes law, offenders convicted of a third strike face a minimum prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Samuel is charged with the murder, kidnapping and robbery of Burk, who was found beaten to death in a downtown parking lot July 25. Samuel was arrested a half-hour after the killing for an unrelated drug crime.
Samuel got a pass to temporarily leave a drug rehabilitation center just hours before he allegedly abducted Burk, authorities say. He had been staying at a residential treatment facility since June as part of his parole after serving prison time for petty theft, according to corrections officials.
More At Los Angeles Times
PREVIOUSLY ON CRIMESIDER
July 28, 2009 - The Last Hours: 17-Year-Old Girl Kidnapped and Murdered for Nothing
July 27, 2009 - 17-Year-Old Girl Found Murdered in Her Car