(MCT) — CHICAGO — An Indiana man convicted of murder has been on the loose since Wednesday evening after Illinois jail officials mistakenly released him, authorities said.
The Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Steven L. Robbins, 44, was released after appearing in Cook County, Ill., court on armed violence and drug charges, and the charges were dismissed.
But the office didn’t alert the public that Robbins, who was convicted of a 2002 fatal shooting a 24-year-old Kentucky man, was on the loose until Thursday evening. The office did not respond to questions about why it took about 24 hours to notify the public.
A warrant for Robbins has been issued in both Illinois and Indiana.
In a telephone interview, Robbins’ ex-wife, Nicole Robbins, who divorced him in 2008, said she hadn’t spoken with or heard from him in a year and a half.
“He was mistakenly released? I haven’t heard from him,” she said. “I don’t know where he is.”
Robbins was serving time in Indiana State Prison when he was brought to Cook County to appear on a warrant for armed violence and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
Robbins was arrested at a Day’s Inn Motel in Merrillville, Ind., according to an archived story in the Indianapolis Post-Tribune, after fleeing police. He was convicted of shooting Richard Melton, with whom he’d gotten into an altercation at a party after Melton accompanied his mother to a funeral. Robbins shot Melton in the street at about 1:30 a.m. on Mother’s Day, authorities said.
He was sentenced in 2004 to 60 years in prison for murder and carrying a handgun without a license, according to Indiana Department of Correction documents, and was eligible for parole in 2029. Robbins has relatives in Gary and Bloomington, according to the archived story.
Robbins was described as a black male, 5 feet 5 inches tall and 190 pounds, with a tattoo on the right side of his neck that reads “Nicole.”
The Cook County charges had actually been dropped in 2007, but Robbins was still required to appear in court in Illinois to answer for the warrant on those charges, according to court records. He had sought last summer to have the charges dismissed from Indiana, but was unable to at the time because he hadn’t included a $5 filing fee, documents show.
The county has mistakenly released a prisoner before. In 2009, the county released a convicted sex offender serving a 30-year prison sentence in Mississippi for manslaughter after prosecutors here dropped sex-related charges against him. A Cook County jail clerk failed to note the manslaughter conviction against Jonathan Cooper, 28 at the time, and when the sex-related charges were dropped, he was released.
Jail officials then didn’t publicly announce that Cooper had been mistakenly released until after the news media was tipped to the mistake. Cooper later turned himself in back to authorities.
(Tribune reporters David Heinzmann and Jeremy Gorner contributed to this report.)