Rock Hill, Fort Mill, York SC Accidents and Injuries Legal Blog

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sheriff Error


York sheriff: Inmate's release was 'human error that we regret'

$5,000 reward for tip that leads to killer



A recordkeeping error led staff at the York County Detention Center to release a convicted murderer by mistake Monday afternoon, authorities said Wednesday.

"We made a mistake and it was a human error that we regret - we regret more than anybody would ever know," York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said Wednesday afternoon outside the Moss Justice Center.

Thomas Aaron Whitlock, 31, was released from the jail at about 3 p.m. Monday and had not been found by Wednesday night. He was serving a 14-year prison term in North Carolina for the shooting death of a Charlotte man.

The Sheriff's Office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Whitlock had been in the York County jail since Feb. 8, awaiting a hearing on a pending drug possession charge.

He was mistakenly released, Bryant said, because his file lacked information indicating that he was due back in North Carolina to finish serving his sentence for murder.

The sheriff tied the misstep to the point at which Whitlock entered the York County system, but he did not go into detail about procedures.

The sheriff stressed that he was not suggesting the court made an error.

"The mistake was made because there was no documentation when he was placed in our facility to indicate that he would be returned back to the state of North Carolina," he said.

At Monday's hearing, Whitlock pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence that matched the 19 days he had already served in the York County Detention Center.

Following that hearing, Bryant said, Whitlock was taken to the jail with paperwork "sent down from the courts" indicating his case had ended. With that paperwork in hand, and without the knowledge that Whitlock was serving a sentence in North Carolina, detention officers released him, Bryant said.

A court document, which indicated that Whitlock completed his sentence for the drug charge, did not say he should be returned to North Carolina - nor should it have - said 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett.

The "mechanics" of how a defendant moves from one jurisdiction's custody to another lies "outside the purview of the court," he said.

Authorities are conducting an internal investigation to determine what happened and will release details later, Bryant said.

"We will hold accountable those who made the mistake," he said.

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