An arrest warrant for an escaped Tennessee murderer was inexplicably canceled in the mid-1970s, reports The Tennessean. That allowed him to remain at large for 22 more years, despite being repeatedly arrested and set free in Nashville. The Tennessee Highway Patrol somehow assisted in clearing the escape warrant for Billy Wayne Hayes, who walked away from a Nashville prison work detail in 1972. His three decades on the lam ended Friday night at a gas station near Dothan, Al., where he was picked up by U.S. marshals who received a tip.
Said a Tennessee corrections official: “We still don’t know what happened. We’re still trying figure it out.” Under current procedures, arrest warrants are entered into a national database so that law enforcement in any jurisdiction can learn quickly that a person arrested is a fugitive. No safeguard exists in the event an arrest warrant is mistakenly canceled. Hayes, now 57, was originally arrested in July 1967 in connection with the shooting death of a Nashville paint contractor. Police said Hayes, then a teenager, had been involved in a fight with the man’s two sons.