Convicted murderer mistakenly released in Chicago
BY LISA DONOVAN AND JORDAN OWEN Staff Reporters January 31, 2013 8:04PM
Steven L. Robbins | Cook County Sheriff's photo
Updated: March 2, 2013 12:13PM
A convicted murderer from Indiana walked out the front door of the Cook County Jail to freedom after he was mistakenly released by Illinois authorities after a court appearance here on an unrelated charge, authorities announced Thursday.
Steven L. Robbins, 44, was serving a 60-year sentence for murder and carrying a handgun without a license in Indiana, the Indiana Department of Corrections said.
On Tuesday, Robbins had been released from the Indiana State Prison on a court order to Cook County Circuit Court to face separate Illinois charges, but the charges against him were dropped, officials said.
By one account, those charges were drug-related, but on Thursday sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki said Robbins was wanted on an “armed violence warrant” — for allegedly using a weapon while committing a felony.
Sheriff Tom Dart’s office, which runs the jail, is now investigating why Robbins was released from the jail on Chicago’s Southwest Side about 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Bilecki said.
A preliminary investigation indicates there was no “hold” order to keep Robbins in the jail, so staff thought he was free to go.
Robbins appeared in court next door at the 26th and California criminal courts building and was escorted — typical in cases where someone is in custody — back to the jail where Cook County Department of Corrections staff reviewed his paperwork to determine whether he should go to a cell or be released, Bilecki said.
Again, Bilecki reiterated that an initial investigation showed there was no paperwork indicating he should be held. And there was no indication jail staff helped Robbins.
“He walked out of Gate 5 [of the jail] and hasn’t been seen by authorities since,” Bilecki said, referring to the jail’s main entrance and exit on California, near 27th Street.
Robbins was discovered missing from the jail as authorities were preparing to return him to Indiana on Thursday afternoon.
A warrant for Robbins’ arrest was issued in both Indiana and Illinois. About 200 officers from federal, state and local law enforcement on both sides of the border were looking for Robbins, authorities said. While Robbins has some ties to the Chicago area, he has lots of ties to the Indianapolis area, authorities said.
The Gary, Ind., native began serving his sentence in the Indiana State Prison on Oct. 25, 2004. His earliest projected release date was June 29, 2029.
Cook County officials acknowledged the mistake in a press release.
“The Sheriff has ordered an investigation into the facts and circumstances regarding his court appearance and release from custody,” according to the release from the sheriff’s office.
Robbins was described as a black male, about 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 190 pounds. The right side of his neck bears a tattoo reading “Nicole.”