Little supervision for Colo parolee murder suspect
DENVER — Officials are questioning why a Colorado prison parolee suspected in a murder after his release was on a low level of supervision, the latest possible mistake found as authorities review thousands of sentencing records.
The review comes after the discovery that Evan Ebel, who is suspected of killing corrections chief Tom Clements and Denver pizza deliveryman Nathan Leon on March 19, was released from prison four years early because of a clerical error.
According to KCNC-TV, the Colorado parole board decided to release Warren Watson from prison about three years early, based in part on internal assessments that suggested the 52-year-old career criminal was a low risk for committing more crimes.
“I think we handled the Warren Watson case the best we could have based on our assessment of the case,” said Tim Hand, Director of Adult Parole for Colorado.
Internal records show that during his last four years in prison, Watson had not been a problem, but his record shows 10 felony arrests with crimes stretching from Oklahoma to Colorado and Indiana.
In a matter of weeks after being released, Watson fled from parole. Authorities later accused him of sexually assaulting and murdering lawyer Claudia Miller in her Lakewood office on March 5.
Parole documents show that Watson had escaped from a community corrections program in 1992, walked away from a Colorado penal institution in 1993, violated Colorado parole in 1996 and then again jumped parole in Ohio in 1997.
The records noted that Watson escaped again from community corrections in 2006 and fled to Texas, and escaped community corrections in 2008 and fled to Mississippi.
Despite Watson’s history, two members of the Colorado parole board, who are appointed by the governor, voted to release Watson from prison early on what’s known as a “discretionary release.”
“He was a risk for running away but not for committing another felony,” said Dr. Anthony Young, chairman of the Parole Board who defended the decision to release Watson early from prison.
Eddie Mae Woolfolk, director of an early release program, said Watson never complied with the terms of his release, but nothing was done about it.
After disappearing from the transitional housing facility, Watson next showed up March 8 when he confessed to investigators that he made an appointment to meet Lakewood attorney Claudia Miller at her law office.
He is now accused of sexually assaulting and killing Miller and fleeing with her car and credit cards. Three days later, Watson was arrested in Boise, Idaho, where he was arrested for violating his Colorado parole.
He faces 18 criminal charges ranging from murder to robbery and sexual assault.