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Error led to early release for suspected killer of Colorado prison chief

Evan Spencer Ebel is shown in this undated Colorado Department of Corrections booking photo.REUTERS/Colorado Department of Corrections/Hando
Evan Spencer Ebel is shown in this undated Colorado Department of Corrections booking photo.REUTERS/Colorado Department of Corrections/Hando

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A white supremacist parolee suspected of killing Colorado's prisons chief and a pizza delivery man last month had been mistakenly released from prison in January - four years early - due to a clerical error, court officials said on Monday.

Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, was killed in a roadside gun battle with police following a high-speed chase in Texas, two days after the March 19 killing of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Ebel had been released from prison in Colorado early after a judicial assistant failed to note on his prison file that sentences he received in 2008 for second-degree assault were supposed to be served consecutively rather than concurrently, the chief judge and district administrator for the 11th Judicial District said in a statement.

Ebel, who pleaded guilty to the assault charge and received a reduced sentence in a deal with prosecutors, was released on mandatory parole on January 28 of this year, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.

"The district has undertaken a review of its practices in an effort to avoid a re-occurrence of this circumstance," Chief Judge Charles Barton and District Administrator Walter Blair said in the statement.

"The court regrets this oversight and extends condolences to the families of Mr Nathan Leon and Mr Tom Clements," they said.

Authorities have also named Ebel as a suspect in the killing of Domino's pizza delivery driver Nathan Leon in the Denver area two days before Clements was shot dead when he answered the door at his home 45 miles south of Denver.

KAUFMAN COUNTY KILLINGS

Ebel was a member of a white supremacist prison gang, the 211 Crew.

According to Colorado court records, he was arrested at least seven times between 2003 and 2010 for crimes including burglary, weapons possession, assault, menacing, robbery and trespassing.

Authorities have said they were looking for ties between the murder of Clements and the January slaying of Mark Hasse, a prosecutor in the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office. Kaufman County is east of Dallas.

The January 31 murder of Hasse occurred the same day the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office was among the agencies involved in a racketeering case against the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist group.

On Saturday, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found with fatal gunshot wounds at their home near the Texas town of Fourney. Fourney Mayor Darren Rozell has called the killing of McLelland and his wife a "targeted attack."

A search of Ebel's car following the shootout with Texas police turned up a pizza deliverer's shirt, visor, pizza box and heat bag. Ballistics tests established that the same gun he fired at police during that gun battle matched the weapon used to kill Clements and Leon.

Also found in the car were bomb-making materials and instructions for building bombs, according to Texas authorities.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)

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