How Ex-Con Slipped Through the Justice System Cracks


How did ex-con Stephen Reeves move from town to town on a crime spree that ended with a savage, random murder? Putting it all together, the Arizona Republic concludes that Reeves, 53, is “the poster child for an undermanned court system, overcrowded jails and tangled legal bureaucracy.” Seven times he crossed the paths of authorities. And every time, they let him go. His journey ended June 2, when police arrested him in a parking lot as he sat behind the wheel of a car belonging to an 18-year-old woman, covered in her blood.

Reeves had no plan to avoid justice; he managed to slip through cracks in the system entirely by accident. A court error released him from jail by mistake. A paperwork snafu allowed him to dodge a warrant. A lapse in communication kept his name from going out on police computers. The computers actually worked in Reeves’ favor. They don’t allow patrol officers to view a suspect’s full criminal history. “They had four or five chances to (expletive) lock me up. They probably should have,” Reeves said in a jail interview. “Right about now, I wish they had.” In one example of a lapse, a judge in May ordered Reeves held on a $5,000 bond, which Reeves says he couldn’t pay. A court clerk lost the paperwork needed to hold him.


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