A man charged with murdering 11-year-old Michael Shawn Gasque in West Baltimore last week was released from prison in January after serving 11 years of a 15-year sentence for sex offenses, state correctional officials said.
Warren C. Berry, 30, earned four years of good-behavior credits while imprisoned and the state was required under law to release him, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the state Division of Correction.
Berry was not paroled -- in fact, he had been turned down in a bid for parole in December 1991 -- but was instead released mandatorily, Mr. Sipes said.
Inmates can earn up to 15 days of "diminution credits" a month for satisfactory involvement in prison vocational programs, treatment for substance abuse and work assignments. The inmate's sentence is reduced by each day of diminution credit earned.
"He [Berry] had 'max-ed out' his sentence. There was no legal way the state of Maryland could keep him incarcerated," Mr. Sipes said.
Berry had received a total of 15 years in prison for first- and second-degree sex offense convictions in 1980. Mr. Sipes said no information was available on what happened in those crimes or who the victims were.
Berry is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of the Gasque youth, whose body was found Friday in an abandoned shed in Edmondson Village. Police said the boy went out to play Wednesday in his neighborhood -- where Berry lived -- and never returned home.
Witnesses reported seeing the boy walking with Berry, and also reported seeing the two together at an area video store, police said. Investigators said Berry often played basketball with the Gasque youth and other neighborhood children.
Berry was arrested Thursday night after officers raided his house and found what appeared to be illegal drugs and a handgun inside, police said. After questioning, he was charged with the slaying of the Gasque youth.
Mr. Sipes said Berry had been satisfactorily completing all the terms of his release, an "intensive supervision." He was required to meet with a probation agent periodically and there had not been any difficulties.
No special requirements -- such as sexual abuse counseling -- were ordered as conditions of Berry's release, Mr. Sipes said.
"This is not a parole. We don't have complete and total control," he said, although he conceded that in rare instances, a mandatory releasee will be required to undergo special requirements such as counseling.