Convicted killer back in custody

A convicted murderer from Indiana is on the loose because of some bad paperwork in Cook County. (WGN - Chicago)

Convicted murderer Steven Robbins was arrested late Friday in Kankakee, two days after he was mistakenly released from the Cook County Jail after being brought to Chicago to dispose of an old case against him, according to the Cook County sheriff's office.

Saturday morning, Robbins is being held at the Cook County Sheriff's police lockup in Maywood until he can be taken back to Indiana, said Frank Bilecki, a spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Robbins, 44, who was serving a 60-year sentence for murder in Indiana, was apprehended "without incident" about 10:55 p.m. in the 400 block of Fraser Avenue in Kankakee, according to Bilecki.

“He was found at the home of an acquaintance, watching TV’’ said Bilecki. “They caught him totally off guard.''

Once they got into the home, sheriff’s authorities were trying to keep everyone calm, including a couple of young children who were there with Robbins.

Bilecki said Dart was on the scene and assisted in the arrest.

Authorities tracked Robbins through interviews with family and friends who helped provide his location, according to the sheriff's office. 

Earlier, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart took responsibility for mistakenly letting Robbins walk out of County Jail after a local charge against him was dismissed.

“We let people down, no mistake about it,” Dart said in an interview at sheriff’s offices in Maywood. “Our office did not operate the way it should have, clearly.”

The FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and Cook County Crimestoppers raised $12,000 as a reward for information leading to Robbins’ capture, he said.

Dart said his office is still looking at where and how the system broke down to allow Robbins’ mistaken release from the jail,  but he said that officials at the  jail had no paperwork showing he was serving time in an Indiana prison for murder.

Like other indigent people, Robbins was outfitted with clothing from Goodwill – a long-sleeve brown shirt and brown pants – before being released out the front entrance, Dart said. He also likely was given bus fare.

Dart said the sheriff’s office uses an archaic system – entirely paper-driven – in handling the movement of an average of about 1,500 inmates every day. Some are entering the jail after their arrest and others are being bused to courthouses around the county for court appearances.

The sheriff said the warrant for Robbins’ arrest should have been quashed by prosecutors when armed violence charges were dismissed against him in 2007. In addition, he said prosecutors signed off on the sheriff’s office traveling to Indiana to pick up Robbins at the prison in Michigan City and bring him back on the outstanding warrant.

“We were able to get an extradition warrant on a case that didn’t exist,” Dart said. “That’s the first problem.”

Earlier, documents reviewed by the Tribune showed that paperwork filled out by Cook County sheriff’s officers this week made it clear that Robbins was serving a 60-year sentence for murder in Indiana and was to be returned to authorities there after being brought to Chicago to dispose of an old case against him.

“Please be advised that this subject is in our custody under the temporary custody provision of the interstate agreement on detainers,” a sheriff’s order accompanying Robbins’ paperwork read. The order noted Robbins’ murder conviction and 60-year sentence and then stated he “must be returned to the custody of Indiana DOC.”

In addition, Judge Rickey Jones, assigned to the Leighton Criminal Court Building, ordered the Illinois case dismissed on Wednesday and wrote on paperwork that Robbins was to be released for “this case only,” the records show.
Yet Robbins was allowed to walk free out of the Cook County Jail Wednesday evening after his court appearance. Authorities today were reviewing the paperwork in Robbins’ file to see how the mistake was made and who was responsible, sources told the Tribune.

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