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Inmate released in error

November 01, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

A man scheduled to stand trial Monday for a 1998 shooting was mistakenly released from the Washington County Detention Center in August because of a paperwork mix-up.

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When Terrance Sam Murphy failed to appear in court Monday, Washington County Circuit Judge Donald Beachley issued an arrest warrant. Murphy is charged with attempted first- and attempted second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and handgun offenses.

Murphy was taken into custody in February on charges filed by Hagerstown City Police in Washington County District Court.

A Washington County grand jury later indicted him on the same charges, entitling him to a new bond hearing in Washington County Circuit Court.

On Aug. 10, Murphy appeared in Circuit Court, at which time the charges in District Court were dismissed, customary procedure when a defendant is indicted and will be tried in Circuit Court.

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That same day, a $300,000 bond was set in connection with the charges in the indictment, court records showed.

On Aug. 20, the jail received a release from commitment order for Murphy on the District Court charges, Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades said.

But the jail didn't receive a warrant to hold him on the charges in the indictment even though there was paperwork showing that a $300,000 bond had been set, Mades said.

Jail personnel questioned the contradictory orders but were told by the Washington County Circuit Court clerk's office to release Murphy, according to Mades.

"Nobody took the next step," said Dennis Weaver, clerk of the Washington County Circuit Court. "There was never any warrant issued for him ... we assumed he would be held on the $300,000 bond shown in the indictment."

Jail officials can't hold a person without a commitment order, or warrant, and in this case, there wasn't one for Murphy, Mades said.

In a memo to Mades, jail Warden Lt. Van Evans said his staff searched all current inmate files after the incident to make sure there was no possibility of such a thing happening again.

Weaver said his office has changed the way it operates because of this incident.

"Instead of merely sending a copy of the docket entries to the jail, we now send a commitment in lieu of bond notice which gives more authority," Weaver said.

Hagerstown City Police Lt. Gary Spielman, whose department investigated the Murphy case, said he did not learn of the premature release until Monday morning.

"We're kind of powerless," Spielman said. "But he's a threat to society and should be behind bars."

Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long said Monday his office knew about the release.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Joe Michael has been in touch with Murphy's Baltimore attorney, Stanley Needleman, Long said.

Long said the sheriff was away when Murphy was released. Long met with the clerk's office and jail personnel right away, he said.

"I believe they are able to resolve this situation," Long said.

First thought to be a victim, Murphy, 23, was located at Frederick Memorial Hospital the day after the Dec. 4 shooting, police said.

Murphy was identified as a suspect through a continuing police investigation, police and court records said.

Murphy had addresses on Boward Street in Hagerstown and in Brooklyn, N.Y., police said.

The victim, Jarrard Jordan, 21, no fixed address, was found in the first-floor entryway of 229 N. Jonathan St. on Dec. 4 at 10:30 p.m.

Jordan had been shot once in the upper back and was taken to Washington County Hospital for treatment, police said.

When police checked on the men again on the day after the shootings, they learned both had checked themselves out of their respective hospitals.

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