Louisiana authorities searched on Wednesday for a killer who was accidentally released from jail last week due to a record-keeping error.
Benjueil Johnson, 32, had been serving a 40-year sentence for a 2013 conviction for manslaughter at a state prison when he was taken to the East Feliciana Parish jail to be booked on an unrelated charge of assaulting a corrections officer. He was allowed to walk out of the parish jail in Jackson on Sept. 22 after posting bail on the assault charge, a state corrections spokeswoman told the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Prison officials learned Johnson had gone free only after residents spotted him on Monday – nearly a week after his release – and called the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s office to ask why he was no longer behind bars, Sheriff Brett Stassi told the newspaper.
Authorities are treating Johnson’s inadvertent release as an escape, corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said.
Johnson pleaded guilty to manslaughter and weapons charges in the 2010 fatal shooting of 31-year-old Cordies Gales during an argument over a gambling game.
“He was a bad guy and we were very happy to get him off the street for 40 years,” Tony Clayton, the special prosecutor who handled the case, said on Wednesday.
Clayton said it appeared the records of Johnson’s convictions had moved from the court to the corrections department as usual after Johnson’s guilty plea.
But Laborde told the Advocate that the corrections department never received paperwork on the manslaughter conviction from officials in Iberville Parish. Still, she said, corrections staff should have caught it on other state records.
Laborde and Stassi did not immediately return calls from Reuters on Wednesday.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Trott)