Parolee left free at time of killing Note on file allowed release after violation

July 11, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A man being sought in the killing of a 91-year-old Baltimore woman could have been jailed two months before the slaying on a parole violation, but a record noting his status was mysteriously altered in his prison file, authorities confirmed yesterday.

The alteration, discovered in a review of records by The Sun, has prompted an investigation of parole officers, including the son of the director of parole and probation, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The suspect, Christopher Mills, 25, of the 3500 block of 6th St., was charged Thursday in a warrant with first-degree murder in the stabbing of Leona G. Klimm, who was found dead in her Brooklyn home June 30.

Mills had been sentenced on Nov. 22, 1994, to five years in prison for destruction of property and theft. He was paroled from the state's boot camp program on Oct. 12, 1995, and was to be under "maximum supervision" of a parole officer until Nov. 22, 1999, parole records show.

But on March 24, 1996, someone entered the word "closed" under Mills' case status, effectively ending the terms and conditions of his release, the records show.

Despite the notation, Mills remains on parole. Only the parole commission could have shortened his parole period.

Mills was arrested on a drug charge on April 25 this year, found guilty and sentenced to 60 days in jail, with 30 days suspended.

Sipes said the conviction would have been a violation of Mills' parole, so the parole commission could have ordered him imprisoned until November 1999 had it known of his correct status. The "closed" notation would mislead anyone checking the computer file.

But Mills was released from jail on May 27. Police said Klimm, who needed a walker to move about, was stabbed to death during a robbery a little over a month later.

Sipes said an investigation was started yesterday afternoon to find out how the "closed" notation appeared in the files. The probe, he said, will include every parole agent that "touched the case."

Several agents are listed in the records, including W. Roland Knapp Jr., the son of W. Roland Knapp, the director of the Division of Parole and Probation. For that reason, Sipes said, the investigation will be carried out by Stuart O. Simms, the secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and not the director.

The younger Knapp could not be reached for comment. His father confirmed what Sipes said and referred questions to him. "We will take a look at the case to see what went wrong," the elder Knapp did say.

Detective John G. Thanner of the city homicide unit said police are searching for Mills, who was seen Thursday in Southeast Baltimore's Butchers Hill neighborhood.

Thanner said he knew of the apparent foul-up in records, but noted, "It's a little late now."

Mills' roommate, Carlos Roy Halcomb, 25, was arrested and charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in Klimm's death.

Pub Date: 7/11/98

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