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Human error led accused killer to parole release

Posted: July 3, 2012 1:30 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2012 1:30 p.m.
 

 

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — California Corrections officials have acknowledged that a clerical error led to the early parole discharge of a longtime criminal who allegedly fatally stabbed a Santa Cruz woman in what authorities say was a random attack.

Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee said Monday Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matt Cate recently came to Santa Cruz to tell the authorities and the family Shannon Collins about the error, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

"It's a crushing, unspeakable tragedy for Shannon's family and for our community," Lee said. "It's hard to imagine a typo costing someone their life."

The Los Angeles Times first reported that the error occurred when a corrections employee set a mandatory hearing date for April instead of November 2011.

Prosecutors say Charles Edwards III, 43, randomly stabbed and killed Collins, a popular shop owner, on May 7, as she was walking on a busy downtown street. Collins, 38 was headed to a hair appointment.

The two didn't know each other, authorities said.

Edwards is facing murder charges as well as special allegations related to use of a deadly weapon and prior felony convictions for the killing. He has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court next month.

Collins' husband, Ken Vinson, declined to comment about the error Monday.

"I am still deeply grieving the loss of Shannon, and that's all I'm really thinking about these days," Vinson said in an email to the Sentinel.

A San Francisco native, Edwards, has a lengthy criminal record dating back to age 13 that includes beating his own mother and threatening other family members.

Prison officials had determined Edwards had schizophrenia, but he was discharged from state parole supervision in December, more than a year after being placed on parole in November 2010. He was given parole after serving an 8-year prison sentence in Los Angeles County for resisting an officer with threats or violence.

His required parole review date would have been in November 2011, but he was back on the streets in January, after the state failed to conduct the review.

Terri McDonald, undersecretary of the Department of Corrections, told the Times that by law, if the state misses a parolee's review period for any reason, they can't keep them on parole.

"We realized the error and we realized he had to be discharged," McDonald said, adding that the agency has a program built in to its computer system to alert officials to the proper time for a parolee's one year-review period.

Shortly after his release, Edwards appeared in Santa Cruz and spent a few nights at a homeless services center before the killing. Employees said he had been cooperative and docile and even expressed an interest in connecting with a Christian community.

Now, Edwards is back in jail in a special unit for those with mental health issues.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

 

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