Convicted murderer mistakenly freed in Chicago back in custody

Cook County Sheriffs Police arrest 44-year-old Steven L. Robbins in Kankakee, IL late Friday night February 1, 2013. (Cook County Sheriffs Police)

February 2, 2013 4:23:32 AM PST
A convicted murderer who was allowed to walk out of Cook County Jail Wednesday night is back in custody.

In a statement released late Friday night Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said 44-year-old Steven L. Robbins was taken into custody without incident.

Cook County Sheriff's Police made the arrest in the 400 block of Frasier Ave. in Kankakee, IL. Sheriff Dart said various leads and interviews with family, friends, and acquaintances of Robbins helped police determine his location and coordinate his capture.

Earlier in the day Friday Dart met with reporters to explain how Robbins was accidentally released Wednesday night.

It appears to have been a clerical error, a very embarrassing clerical error, in a system that is still heavily reliant on the passage of paper.

"We let people down and we're going to fix this," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Friday afternoon.

"It was a clerical error," said Dart. "It appears at this point--I hate being definitive right now, because it has been less than 24 hours since we have been made aware that he was gone, and we spent most of the time looking for him, but our initial investigation appears to be a clerical error."

Robbins was convicted 10 years ago for a murder in Indianapolis. He was doing a 60-year prison sentence in Michigan City. Tuesday, he was driven from the prison to Chicago because of a 20-year-old outstanding criminal warrant in Cook County.

The intent was to clear the outstanding warrant from the books, so Robbins went to court in Chicago Wednesday. The warrant was formally quashed, the paperwork was carted out, and back to jail went Robbins, who should have been returned to Indiana, but what is seen in the jail is that the old Cook County charge had been dismissed, so Robbins, a convicted killer, was allowed to go free.

Robbins walked out in civilian clothing from Goodwill given to him by the jail. The state's attorney said there was no need to bring Robbins to Cook County in the first place.

"The sheriff's police and their extradition unit and fugitive warrant unit asked for us to bring him back, and they actually have the responsibility to bring him back," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, "and several days prior to him being brought here, one of our assistant state's attorneys told the Cook County sheriff's police that there was no need to bring him back because the case had been dismissed back in 2007."

Because no paperwork had gone back to the jail about Robbins coming from Indiana, all the people in the records room saw was that the guy's court case was dismissed.

So Robbins, like another 200 people every day, was released out the front door of the jail.

Sheriff Dart thanked the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Illinois State Police, and local police agencies for their help in the investigation.