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Steven Robbins, mistakenly freed killer, recaptured while watching TV

This photo provided by the Cook County Sheriff's Office shows Steven L. Robbins, a convicted murderer police in Indiana and Illinois are searching for after he was mistakenly released from custody in Chicago. Authorities in Cook County said Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 that they're investigating how and why Robbins was released. The 44-year-old was serving a 60-year sentence for murder and weapons charges in Indiana when he was sent to Chicago on Tuesday to face a drug charge. (AP Photo/Cook County Sheriff's Office)

Steven L. Robbins
AP Photo/Cook County Sheriff's Office

(CBS/AP) CHICAGO - Police recaptured convicted murderer Steven L. Robbins, who was mistakenly released from custody in Chicago where he was facing a drug charge on Tuesday while serving a 60-year prison sentence in Indiana.

Robbins, 44, was taken into custody Friday night at a northern Illinois home where he was found watching TV. He put up no resistance as police burst through the door of a townhome in Kankakee, about 60 miles south of Chicago, said Cook County Sheriff's Office spokesman Frank Bilecki.

"He was in the living room or kitchen area watching TV, taken by total surprise," Bilecki said, adding that it appears the homeowner might know an acquaintance of Robbins. Before the arrest, a surveillance team spotted Robbins wearing a curly wig while carrying groceries from a vehicle into the home, the sheriff's office said.

By Saturday afternoon, Robbins was back in the Indiana State Prison.

The prisoner's mistaken release focused attention on an antiquated corner of the criminal justice system that still relies extensively on paper documents instead of computers in moving detainees and keeping tabs on their court status.

Robbins' transfer to Illinois was the result of a mistake to begin with, officials said.

Robbins was brought before a Cook County Circuit Court judge over drug possession and armed violence charges in a case that it turns out had been dismissed in 2007. But because law enforcement authorities were still seeing an active arrest warrant, The Cook County Sheriff's office requested a transfer and the Cook County State Attorney's office approved it, according to the sheriff's office.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez told reporters that her office had told the sheriff's office that Robbins' drug and armed violence case was closed. But Sheriff Tom Dart showed The Associated Press a copy of the extradition request from September signed by one of Alvarez's prosecutors.

In a second lapse that Dart took responsibility for, he acknowledged that paperwork was lost that would have made it clear to Illinois officials that Robbins was to be returned to Indiana. As a result, he was allowed to walk out of the Cook County Jail's main gate on Wednesday evening.

Dart said he has sought for years to modernize "a very archaic system" that often involves slips of paper from court clerks in illegible handwriting. But he said no money has been set aside for what he described as a "very expensive proposition."

He did pledge to review procedures in his office, including at the warrant unit. In particular, Dart said he wanted to learn why that unit decided to act on Robbins' drugs and armed violence warrant when he was already serving a long murder sentence.

Robbins, a Gary, Ind., native, was serving a sentence for murder and weapons convictions out of Marion County in Indiana.

Witnesses to the 2002 killing told police Robbins was arguing with his wife outside a birthday party in Indianapolis when a man intervened, telling Robbins he should not hit a woman, according to court documents.

Witnesses said Robbins then retrieved a gun from a car and shot the man in the chest. He started serving his sentence in October 2004.

At a brief appearance Saturday in Chicago bond court, a public defender told the judge Robbins had no intention to flee.

Assistant Public Defender Todd Chatman noted Robbins was released by the state and said he was not at fault. The judge dropped an escape charge.

Robbins was then driven about 50 miles east to the Indiana State Prison.

More on CrimesiderFebruary 1, 2013 - Steven Robbins, Indiana murder convict, mistakenly released from custody in Chicago, police say

  • Crimesider Staff

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