Probation officer kept tabs on Burris in days before Gaffney slayings, officials say.

The probation officer who supervised the criminal who police say went on a killing spree had a heavy caseload and should not be blamed for failing to keep him locked up, Correction officials said Wednesday.

Lincoln County probation officer Angela Merrill, who specializes in overseeing sex offenders, had been handling more than 100 cases, including the suspected serial killer Patrick Burris. She has 77 of her own cases and another 29 cases because of two vacancies in the office.

"That's not ideal," said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Correction. "We'd like the caseload to be lower. But it's the reality there."

Merrill had received an arrest warrant for Burris from the N.C. Parole Commission more than six hours before Burris, a 41-year-old career criminal, was released from the Lincoln County jail on June 12. But she did not take immediate steps to make sure he remained behind bars.

Acree said Wednesday it's not right to place blame on Merrill for the killings. "She was all over this Burris guy," he said.

The 30-year-old probation officer met with 28 offenders under her supervision on the day Burris was arrested, jailed and then released. "That's about one appointment every 15 minutes," Acree said.

Merrill had no evidence to suspect Burris would turn violent, Correction Department officials said.

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