PLAQUEMINE, La. - An intense manhunt is underway in Louisiana for a man convicted of manslaughter after he was accidentally released from prison, a corrections spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The incident comes right on the heels of news that another Louisiana inmate - this one awaiting a first-degree murder trial - was arrested after being mistakenly released.
Benjuiel Johnson completed his time on three felony convictions at Louisiana's Dixon Correctional Institute, and on Sept. 22 was transferred to another jurisdiction where he faced charges in a separate case before being released.
Johnson should never have been released from Dixon because he still had a sentence to serve following a conviction in Iberville parish, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Corrections. The person processing Johnson's release paperwork should have noticed the information on the rap sheet and called Iberville parish for details, she said.
"We're not trying to make excuses, it's something that should not have happened," Laborde told CBS affiliate WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge.
Johnson pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2010 shooting death of Cordies Gales, 31. Johnson was convicted for that crime in 2013 as well as possession of a firearm by a felon.
Officials with the Department of Corrections told WAFB that their initial investigation into the incident shows Johnson was getting released from Dixon on good behavior for prior charges. When they ran his name in the system, the manslaughter conviction did not appear, so they let him go. Johnson, however, had an outstanding charge for battery of a correctional officer.
After being released from Dixon, Johnson was picked up and booked into the East Feliciana Parish detention center and processed for the battery charge. A $10,000 bond was issued. Johnson posted bond and was released from prison.
Laborde said the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office contacted prison officials Monday after receiving information that Johnson might have been released. Officials have been in touch with the victim's family, Laborde said.
"We are devoting all the resources that we have to bringing him back into custody," she said. The person responsible will be disciplined, she said. Laborde said the department processes about 17,000 releases a year.
News of the mistaken release comes less than a week after California authorities arrested an Abbeville, La., man who had been mistakenly released from a Louisiana jail while awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge.
According to an FBI news release, Derrick Mitchell, 24, was arrested September 24 in Stockton, California, about 50 miles south of Sacramento. The Advocate reports Mitchell is accused in the Dec. 20, 2012, killing of Darrell Broussard Jr., 25, of Abbeville. Mitchell allegedly forced his way into Broussard's home and shot him several times in the head.
The arrest happened after the Stockton FBI task force and Stockton Police Department received information that Mitchell was living in the area, said police spokesman Joey Silva. While conducting surveillance, they watched him walk out of a home and arrested him without incident.
KATC-TV reports Tensas Parish jailers released Mitchell on March 1 after he completed an unrelated sentence for drug and battery charges. While awaiting trial, Mitchell was transferred from Avoyelles Parish to Tensas Parish, likely because of inmate overcrowding.
Law enforcement and the Louisiana Department of Corrections are trying to figure out how Mitchell was able to gain release. Abbeville Police said when Mitchell was indicted for first-degree murder they made sure the paperwork went to Avoyelles Parish.
"We sent a copy of the warrant, as well as the detainer, basically placing a hold on him that our agency wants him once he's completed with his D.O.C. Time," Detective Leland Laseter of the Abbeville Police Department said. "The new facility he was at was not aware that he was wanted for first-degree murder. When his DOC time was complete, he was released."
Mitchell has a long criminal record. He served three years for a 2009 manslaughter charge and faces several other charges tied to the 2012 murder - possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, illegal possession of stolen things and aggravated battery. He's also been arrested for possession of methamphetamine, distribution of cocaine, aggravated flight from an officer, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, battery of a correctional officer, second-degree battery and simple robbery.