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Questions over release of Pa. murder suspect held in Baltimore

Justice SystemHomicideCoppin State University

A fugitive wanted for murder in Pennsylvania was wrongly released from the Baltimore City Detention Center this week — and authorities are still trying to figure out how that happened.

Dale Wakefield, 21, is being held in a Bucks County, Pa., jail after being recaptured on the campus of Coppin State University. The county’s district attorney pinned the blame for Wakefield’s errant release on city jail administrators, calling them “inept and completely uncooperative” and saying simple database checks would show he was wanted for murdering a homeless veteran.

But court records indicate the jail was following an order from District Judge C. Yvonne Holt-Stone, who on Wednesday dismissed the fugitive warrant and issued a release order. Attempts to reach Holt-Stone, an associate judge since 1991, were unsuccessful.

Wakefield, of Doylestown, Pa., is accused of attacking 71-year-old George Mohr, stabbing him at least 70 times on July 3 near a train station outside Philadelphia. Mohr died three days later at a hospice facility.

Investigators in Pennsylvania charged Wakefield with the crime and tracked him down in Baltimore, where a sister had alerted authorities to his location. Baltimore police arrested him at the Mount Vernon Hotel on July 4, and he was taken to the city jail.

He was released at 2 a.m. Thursday after Holt-Stone issued the release order. City police found him at Coppin four hours later.

Bucks County authorities weren’t taking any chances this time — they had Wakefield transported directly to their own jail after he was recaptured. Michelle A. Henry, the first assistant district attorney in Bucks County, said Friday that prosecutors had not been able to gain additional insight into Wakefield’s release.

“I can’t say we’ve gotten clarity on why he was released,” Henry said. “It was our understanding that he was going to be held.”

“We’re very frustrated,” she continued. “The reality is that Baltimore homicide detectives — who did a great job — had to track this guy down and find him twice. Once is hard enough.”

A spokeswoman with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which runs the city jail, said officials have “undertaken a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding” Wakefield’s release but signaled that more than one agency had dropped the ball.

“If proper procedures were followed by all involved agencies, Wakefield would not have been released,” spokeswoman Erin Julius said in a statement. “The department is evaluating each step in its processes leading up to Wakefield’s release.”

Prosecutors said Wakefield had been out celebrating his birthday the night he stabbed Mohr with a pocket knife. A motive for the attack is unclear, Henry said.

Records do not list an attorney for Wakefield.

Wakefield allegedly called his sister in Baltimore and said he had stabbed someone, and told her he wanted to flee to North Dakota. Instead, he came to Baltimore.

Court records show that after his arrest at the hotel, he was ordered held without bond, and on July 8 he waived extradition and was to be returned to Bucks County within 10 days.

The records also show there were multiple instructions from Pennsylvania authorities in Wakefield’s file. In addition to the murder charge, Bucks County parole officials had asked that Wakefield be held for violating his probation in another case. On July 9, a supervisor with the county’s parole and probation agency notified the Baltimore court that it was rescinding that request.

But Henry said the file still contained requests to hold Wakefield on the murder charge.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, who was not available for comment Friday, blasted city jail officials in comments to the Bucks County Courier Times, saying they were disinterested and unhelpful.

“I want to raise a stink about this,” Heckler told the newspaper. “This is not right. It was … irresponsible.”

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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