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Teen killed: Clerical error to blame?

August 4, 2009 7:29:23 AM PDT
New details reveal the parolee charged with the kidnap and murder of a Los Feliz teen likely should have been in prison, but due to a clerical error, he may have been allowed to go free.Lily Burk, 17, had gone to her mother's office at Southwestern University School of Law to pick up papers on July 24, but she never returned home.

Parolee Charlie Samuel faces several counts of murder, robbery and kidnapping to commit a robbery. This is a special circumstance case, which means Samuel could face the death penalty.

According to the L.A. Times, Samuel should have been behind bars and not out wandering the streets of Los Angeles.

Burk was found dead inside her car the morning after she disappeared. She had been beaten, and her neck had been slashed.

Police found Samuel's fingerprints inside the vehicle, and he was already in police custody after being arrested for drinking in public and possessing a crack cocaine pipe shortly after he allegedly carried out the murder.

Samuel was convicted of robbery and residential burglary in San Bernardino County in 1987. Ten years later, he was convicted of another burglary and was eligible to be prosecuted under California's three-strikes law.

But because of a clerical error, the 1997 burglary charge was filed as a second strike instead of a third. A third strike can put a convicted felon away for 25 years to life.

It is unclear who made the mistake in Samuel's case.

Crime victims groups gathered on Tuesday afternoon outside Southwestern University where Burk was abducted, and they're going to unveil a new advertisement that criticizes Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to release 27,000 non-violent inmates early due to the state's budget crisis.

Federal judges ruled Tuesday that the state needs to release more than 40,000 prisoners over the next two years because of prison overcrowding. They have cited that overcrowding violates a prisoner's constitutional rights.

"Something can be done about random violence," said Bilenda Harris-Ritter from the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children.

"Parole violators need to go back to prison, and there should be no early release of prisoners, especially when the index used to determine who is eligible does not give an accurate picture of the criminal histories of those people," she said.

The Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Matthew Cate issued the following statement:
"Maintaining the status quo would not have prevented this horrific incident. In fact, parolees with a serious or violent criminal history, or who are high-risk, would be under more intense supervision form their parole agent. It is our sincere hope that all involved in this situation will avoid using this tragic event to advance a particular political agenda."

Samuel will be arraigned on August 20. He remains in police custody without bail.

Eyewitness News reporters Melissa MacBride and Sid Garcia contributed to this report.

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