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Archive for Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Decision to free man who became killer questioned

July 15, 2009

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— A North Carolina parole officer overloaded with cases should not be blamed for failing to tell jail officers to keep behind bars a career criminal who later killed five people, authorities said Tuesday.

Parole officer Angela Merrill saw more than two dozen parolees the day Patrick Burris was released from a county jail after violating parole and she had no evidence to indicate the violent turn his life was about to take, said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction.

“I think at this point it’s hard to point a finger at her and say, ‘You didn’t do what you should have done,”’ Acree said.

Authorities said Burris killed five people between June 27 and July 2 in and around the rural South Carolina community of Gaffney. He was shot to death July 6 by police investigating a burglary complaint at a home in Gastonia, N.C.

Ballistics from a gun found with Burris linked him to the slayings about 30 miles away.

North Carolina officials have been looking into why Burris, 41, was released from the Lincoln County jail June 12 after violating parole, despite having been arrested more than 30 times in that state alone. He also had convictions in Florida, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.

The department has said Merrill, who did not return a phone message seeking comment, was vigilant.

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