A prisoner released early by mistake due to the state’s error in sentencing calculations killed a woman in a car accident when he should have been in prison, according to the state Department of Corrections.
OLYMPIA — A Bellevue man arrested on suspicion of crashing his 1992 Lexus LS into a utility box last month, killing the woman with him, is one of the inmates the state mistakenly released early.
On Monday, the state Department of Corrections (DOC) announced that the man, Robert Jackson, should have been in prison that night.
Due to a state error in calculating prison sentences, which resulted in the early release of thousands of inmates since 2002, Jackson was mistakenly freed Aug. 10, according to the DOC.
Jackson should have been locked up until Dec. 6, not in the car with Lindsay Hill, according to a statement from the agency.
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Hill, a 35-year-old mother of two, was thrown from the car outside her Bellevue apartment complex and suffered a catastrophic head injury. One of Hill’s friends told police the victim had been dating the suspect, and that the relationship was a violent one, court documents say.
Eight hours after the crash, a police officer found Jackson, his face bloody and eyes bloodshot, at the same complex. Jackson, smelling of alcohol, fought with the lieutenant, and another officer used a Taser on Jackson before he was brought into custody, according to charging papers.
Jackson is back in custody and has been charged with vehicular homicide, according to the DOC. His criminal history includes multiple motor-vehicle theft convictions, obstruction and assault, court records show.
DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke in a statement Monday offered condolences to Hill’s family.
“Nothing I can say will bring back Ms. Hill. I deeply regret that this happened,” Pacholke said in prepared remarks. “On behalf of the Department of Corrections, I apologize.”
In an email Monday, a relative of Hill’s described the family as “just devastated.”
Gov. Jay Inslee last week announced that because of a software error leading to sentencing miscalculations, as many as 3,200 prisoners have been set free before their correct release date.
A victim’s family in 2012 alerted the DOC to the problem and the agency scheduled a software fix, which was never made. Inslee has announced an independent investigation, and state lawmakers are calling for hearings into the long error.
In a statement, Inslee called the news of Hill’s death “gut-wrenching and heart-breaking.”
“I spoke with Lindsay Hill’s family today and let them know that Washingtonians’ hearts are with them during these very difficult days,” Inslee said Monday in prepared remarks. “There is nothing that can right this horrible wrong. We must make sure nothing like this happens again.”
The DOC on Monday also changed the number of inmates believed to have committed crimes after being released early by mistake. Last week, officials said they believed three offenders had allegedly committed crimes; the Monday news release put it at two offenders, with Jackson being one of them. The agency is continuing to review records for other offenders who may have committed crimes, the statement said. The search continues for the second offender.
The news comes shortly before state lawmakers return to Olympia for the legislative session starting in January. The error has prompted lawmakers to announce hearings.
“We will have hearings during the first week of the session,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley and chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma and chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the House also will likely hold hearings.
“I’m concerned about the public-safety end of this first,” Jinkins said. But, she added, “I certainly want to know how it happened.”
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, a former King County sheriff, blasted the agency last week, calling the error “as disturbing as it is infuriating.”
Bill Bryant, a Republican challenging Inslee in the 2016 elections, said in a statement that state officials, “need to be held accountable for knowing about a problem for years and not fixing it.”