Public was notified about murder suspect's mistaken release hours after state knew

Public was notified about murder suspect's mistaken release hours after state knew
Updated: Jul. 27, 2018 at 6:03 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CAPTAIN COOK, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The head of the state's Public Safety Department pledged a full investigation into how a murder suspect was mistakenly released from a Big Island jail.

But this isn't the first time a high-profile suspect has been accidentally let go from the Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

In fact, it happened in February.

In that case, the suspect in a Pahoa knife-wielding bank robbery — 57-year-old Anthony Glover — was accidentally released. Glover was found and arrested a few days later.

Court records indicate public safety workers may have thought a court document transferring the case to another court was a release order.

The same problem appears to have caused the mistaken release Tuesday of 49-year-old Brian Lee Smith, who's accused of shooting and killing mango picker Thomas Ballesteros Jr. in South Kona in June.

On Thursday night, Smith called police from a business in Captain Cook, saying he wanted to turn himself in.

State Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda refused to talk about the February case and offered few new details about the Smith release in a news conference Friday.

"On behalf of the Hawaii Community Correctional Center, and the Department of Public Safety, I want to express our deepest regrets for the undue duress our error caused the Hawaii Island community," Espinda said. "We regret having add to your misery over the past 24 hours. Please accept our sincere apology."

While Smith was accidentally released Tuesday, Hawaii Community Correction Center didn't realize their mistake until Thursday morning and Espinda wasn't notified until 11:59 a.m. Thursday.

The public was alerted about the mistake at 2:35 p.m.

Espinda said he couldn't elaborate on the details about the mistake, saying it is too early in the investigation. And so far, no one has been disciplined for the error.

Smith's mistaken released caused the second manhunt in a week for Hawaii County police officers, who are still coping the loss of Officer Bronson Kaliloa.

"We are grateful to the Hawaii police department for arresting Brian Smith. The HPD stepped up in this crisis even while working through their own period of mourning," Espinda said.

On Friday, the governor was also grilled about how long it takes his departments to warn the public of threats, like confessed killer Randall Saito's escape from the state mental hospital.

"We continue to look at the needs of our community and we have prioritized the health and safety of our community amongst the highest priorities that we have, and we will continue to advocate for those investments," Gov. David Ige said.

Hawaii County police said Smith's bail is set at $2 million. His next court appearance is in September.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.