Man who went on to kill 5 in S. Carolina released from jail despite hold order

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Despite an order to keep Patrick Burris in jail, a communications breakdown allowed him to go free two weeks before police say he killed five people in South Carolina.

On June 12, Burris was arrested and jailed in Lincoln County for driving while his license was revoked.

For weeks, the career criminal fresh out of prison had been violating the terms of his release by missing curfew and driving while his license was revoked, authorities said. So the N.C. Parole Commission had issued an order that Burris be arrested and kept in jail without bond until it could review Burris' behavior.

Burris' probation officer, Angela Merrill, tried to keep him in jail June 12, according to the N.C. Department of Correction. She phoned the jail around 9:40 p.m. and was told Burris had already been released, correction officials say.

But Lincoln County jailers say Merrill never called. They never knew Burris was supposed to be detained indefinitely.

They released Burris on the traffic charge around 10:30 p.m. on June 12, records show, on a bond of $2,000.

Burris went on to binge on drugs and terrorize the small South Carolina town of Gaffney, police and acquaintances say, committing a spree of apparently random killings in the heart of Cherokee County. A peach farmer. A teacher and retired teacher. A store owner and his 15-year-old daughter. All were shot to death over the course of a week.

Burris' probation officer and Lincoln County jailers acted appropriately, their bosses say. But had the Parole Commission's warrant been executed, Burris would have remained in jail and possibly sent back to prison for nine months.

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