A man mistakenly released from the Salt Lake County Jail because prosecutors failed to file criminal charges against him is back behind bars.
Police officers in Portland, Ore., arrested convicted killer and serial robbery suspect Robert Douglas Preece about 1:30 a.m. Pacific time on Monday.
"We got a call on a suspicious guy sleeping in the backseat of a car in the parking lot of an apartment complex in southeast Portland," said Portland police officer Catherine Kent.
The Mercedes Benz's license plate had been entered into a national crime database late Friday after it was spotted in Salt Lake City with Preece behind the wheel, U.S. Marshals said.
"As he was taken into custody, he gave the name of Michael Moore," FBI Special Agent Juan Becerra told the Deseret Morning News. "He could not provide a Social Security number."
FBI agents in Salt Lake City provided Portland police with a photo of Preece. Police used that booking mug shot to positively identify him. The latest jail booking mug of Preece showed he had recently sprouted a dark patch of hair, where his wanted posters displayed a shaved head.
Federal authorities said Preece, 43, waived extradition to Utah during a brief court appearance in Portland on Monday. He is expected to be returned within the next couple of weeks to Utah, where he is facing a series of federal and state charges.
Preece was mistakenly released from the Salt Lake County Jail on Sept. 18 because the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office failed to file criminal charges against him within the required three days of his arrest. He was originally arrested on Sept. 14 after a series of robberies, a carjacking and a chase that ended in a crash, police said.
Salt Lake District Attorney Lohra Miller's office blamed Preece's release on the wrong date being written by his name on a list of inmates due to be released.
After being released, the FBI said Preece robbed a Holladay bank the same one he is accused of robbing before he was arrested in September.
Preece is wanted for questioning in a series of robberies in the Salt Lake Valley.
"We are hoping that when he returns, and as he is interviewed, that he will help to shed light on the many recent robberies," Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Paul Jaroscak said Monday.
FBI agents told the Deseret Morning News that Preece also may be a suspect in robberies extending into Davis County. U.S. Marshals believe Preece spent time in and out of Utah since his release.
"My guess is he was probably in and out of the state," said deputy U.S. Marshal Mike Wingert. "He was probably in California for a while, then he came back."
As late as Friday, Preece was believed to be in Utah. Wingert said Salt Lake City police reported a sighting of him. The license plate of the car that Preece was seen driving was entered into a national crime database. The vehicle was registered out of Heber, but federal agents did not know if it was stolen.
Thirty-six hours later, Preece turned up in Oregon.
"I saw the headline and I was like, 'Please be Preece! Please be Preece!"' said the owner of one of the businesses Preece is accused of robbing. She asked to remain anonymous out of fear for her safety.
The woman praised police for their quick response to her robbery, but she was critical of Miller's office.
"That is just unreal to me that it can happen," she said of Preece's accidental release.
The district attorney's office has said it is working to improve communications between prosecutors and the jail.
In 1983, Preece was convicted of stabbing an inmate to death at the Utah State Prison, where he already was doing time for aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. He was released from prison in 1996 after serving 14 years for manslaughter.Parole violations brought him in and out of prison, corrections officials said. He was finally discharged from prison in 2006.
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