North Carolina corrections department officials erroneously told the Charlotte Observer that a probation officer phoned a jail on June 12 in an effort to keep Patrick Burris, who later went on to kill five people in South Carolina, locked up. Burris had been arrested and jailed that day for driving while his license was revoked. His probation officer, Angela Merrill, received a warrant that afternoon ordering that Burris be detained until it could decide whether to send him back to prison. Merrill was busy with other offenders at 4 p.m. when she received the order, officials said, and didn’t immediately take steps to ensure Burris remained behind bars.
Correction officials now say that Merrill did not phone the jail, as they reported last week. Instead, she checked the jail’s Web site about 9:40 p.m. and didn’t see his name – which meant she wouldn’t be able to serve the Parole Commission’s arrest-and-detention warrant on him. He wasn’t actually released from jail until 10:37 p.m., after he made bond. Two weeks later, Burris went on a killing spree that took the lives of a peach farmer, two teachers and a store owner and his 15-year-old daughter.