A murderer was mistakenly released from a Chicago jail Wednesday night after there was no indication in his jail paperwork that he was ordered to remain in custody, according to reports.
Steven L. Robbins, 44, was serving a 60-year sentence for murder and carrying a handgun without a license in Indiana when he was released from the Indiana State Prison on Tuesday on a court order to appear in Cook County Circuit Court to face separate, unrelated charges in Illinois. The Cook County Sheriff's Office confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that he was released at about 7 p.m. after appearing in the Cook County court on a warrant for armed violence and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Both charges were ultimately dismissed.
Sheriff Tom Dart's office, which runs Cook County Jail, is now investigating why exactly Robbins was released, despite the preliminary investigation indicating that there was no "hold" order to keep Robbins locked up. There was also no indication that jail staff helped Robbins get out either.
On Thursday morning, the Cook County fugitive warrant unit called the jail to make arrangements to send Robbins back to the Indiana prison. When jail staff looked up Robbins in their computerized records, Bilecki said, they learned he had been released from custody Wednesday night.
"He walked out of Gate 5 [of the jail] and hasn't been seen by authorities since," said Frank Bilecki said, a spokesman for the Cook County office, referring to the jail's main entrance and exit on California, near 27th Street.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Robbins was discovered missing from the Chicago jail as authorities were preparing to return him to Indiana on Thursday afternoon.
As a result, a warrant for Robbins' arrest was issued in both Indiana and Illinois, and about 200 officers from federal, state and local law enforcement on both sides of the border were alerted to hunt down Robbins, including the FBI and U.S. Marshal's Service.
The Tribune reported that authorities didn't want Robbins to immediately know that they were on to him, which is why the public wasn't immediately made aware that he was on the loose.
While Robbins has some ties to the Chicago area, he also has lots of ties to the Indianapolis area, including relatives in Gary and Bloomington.
"We were trying to hit all the spots where we thought he might be before he became aware that we were looking for him," Bilecki said.
In a telephone interview with the Tribune, Robbins' ex-wife, Nicole Robbins, who divorced him in 2008, said she hadn't spoken with or heard from him in over a year.
"I haven't heard from him," she said. "I don't know where he is."
Robbins was arrested at a Day's Inn Motel in Merrillville, Ind., according to the Indianapolis Post-Tribune, after running from police. He was then convicted of shooting Richard Melton, with whom he had an altercation with at a party after Melton accompanied his mother to a funeral. Robbins openly shot Melton in the street at about 1:30 a.m. on Mother's Day, authorities said.
He received his 60-year sentence in 2004, according to Indiana Department of Correction documents, and was eligible for parole in 2029.
The Cook County charges for armed violence and possession of a controlled substance had actually been dropped in 2007, but Robbins was still mandated to appear in court in Illinois to answer for the warrant on those charges, according to court records. He sought last summer to have the charges dismissed from Indiana, but was denied at that time because he hadn't included a $5 filing fee.
Robbins was described as a 5-foot-5 black male, weighing 190 pounds and marked with a tattoo on the right side of his neck that reads "Nicole." Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call 708-865-4915.