Despite an order to keep Patrick Burris in jail, a communications breakdown allowed him to go free two weeks before police say he killed five people in South Carolina, reports the Charlotte Observer in a detailed reconstruction of the case. On June 12, Burris was arrested and jailed for driving while his license was revoked. For weeks, the career criminal fresh out of prison had been violating the terms of his release by missing curfew and driving while his license was revoked. So the N.C. Parole Commission issued an order that Burris be arrested and kept in jail without bond until it could review Burris’ behavior.
Burris’ probation officer, Angela Merrill, tried to keep him in jail June 12. She phoned the jail around 9:40 p.m. and was told Burris had already been released, correction officials say. Jailers in Lincoln County say Merrill never called. They never knew Burris was supposed to be detained indefinitely. North Carolina’s probation department, which also supervises felons recently released from prison, has struggled to keep up with huge caseloads and has been the target of reforms by Gov. Bev Perdue. Still, probation officer Merrill “was on top of this guy,” says correction department spokesman Keith Acree. “This was a very well-supervised case.”