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Mistakenly freed murder suspect captured in Baltimore

Rodriquez Purnell was awaiting trial on murder and other charges when he was mistakenly released Oct. 17 from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center.
Rodriquez Purnell was awaiting trial on murder and other charges when he was mistakenly released Oct. 17 from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center. (Handout photo courtesy Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services)

A fugitive who was mistakenly released from a state detention center in Baltimore last week while awaiting trial for murder was caught Thursday, police said.

Rodriquez Purnell, 30, was arrested about 6 p.m. in the 2800 block of Belmont Ave., less than a mile from where the killing in which he is charged took place, police said.

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Police declined to provide information on the circumstances of his capture or to say whether he faces additional charges.

His capture came six days after he was accidentally freed last Friday from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, which holds inmates who have been separated from others and processes those destined for other facilities. Officials there did not realize the mistake for two days.

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The mother of a man he is charged with killing said she heard Sunday that he had been seen in the neighborhood and called authorities. Corrections officials acknowledged that procedures were not followed and placed an employee on leave Tuesday. The worker was not identified.

Purnell was tried in August in the killing of Terrence Rheubottom, 27, in West Baltimore in March 2013, but the trial ended in a hung jury.

Witnesses identified Purnell as the man who shot Rheubottom in a 2001 Honda Accord that was found riddled with bullet holes in the 1800 block of Ruxton Ave., police said.

An attorney said his former client was held without bail after the trial. Court records show that Purnell was tentatively scheduled for a new trial Nov. 19.

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The Baltimore Sun reported last year that four people were mistakenly released from the state-run Central Booking and Intake Facility that summer. The total far exceeded the count from previous years.

Corrections officials blamed those releases on human error amid a sea of paperwork and limited staff. Before inmates are released, staff members are supposed to perform multiple checks, including searches for outstanding warrants, detainers, and pending charges — a process that can take up to 24 hours.

Purnell was convicted and sentenced in June to nine months for assaulting a corrections officer. With good behavior, inmates typically serve half or less of their sentence. But the pending murder charge carried a no-bail status that should have kept him behind bars.

The state corrections system releases 10,000 sentenced inmates a year. Pretrial facilities hold a daily average of 3,000 detainees.

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