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Suspect Released After Paperwork Snafu

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Palmdale man suspected of attempted murder was released from custody this week because probation officials failed to file paperwork in time for prosecutors to bring charges, authorities said Thursday.

Sylmar Juvenile Hall had no choice but to release Eduardo Nunez on Monday because the charges could not be brought against him within three working days after his arrest, said Michelle Lewis, director of intake and detention control for the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

“It was an error,” she said. “When we take a youngster into custody, there are certain things the staff is supposed to do, and in this case it was not done.”

Nunez was 17, and therefore a juvenile, when he was arrested. He has since turned 18.

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Probation officers are required by law to issue an evaluation of whether a juvenile suspect should remain in custody after his arrest, Lewis said. She said the probation office in Lancaster should have sent the report on Nunez to Sylmar by last Friday, but it arrived instead on Monday, too late for authorities to file a case.

Lewis said Nunez can be rearrested and charged with the crime.

On Wednesday night, sheriff’s deputies searched an area of Palmdale after a car believed to be Nunez’s was spotted there, but they found no sign of him. Investigators have no other leads on Nunez’s whereabouts, said Sgt. Greg Collins of the Antelope Valley Sheriff’s Station.

Nunez is suspected of shooting Mark Nevlin, 30, of Palmdale, twice in the back Nov. 28 after an argument about the use of a pay phone in the 3000 block of East Palmdale Boulevard, Collins said.

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Lewis said probation officials in Sylmar didn’t know about the Nunez case until Monday. “If they had known about it, they would have followed up (with the Lancaster office),” she said.

An investigation of the Lancaster office is under way to determine who was responsible for filing the late paperwork, Lewis said. If an employee was negligent, she added, disciplinary action could range from a letter of reprimand if it was a first-time mistake to termination if the employee has a history of trouble.

About 20,000 juveniles are booked into custody each year, and the Probation Department generally “does a very good job of staying on top of the deadlines,” Lewis said.

Probation officers reported Nunez’s release to the Antelope Valley Sheriff’s Station Wednesday afternoon. Lt. Tom Pigott, a sheriff’s deputy for the past 20 years, said such calls do not come in often.

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“That is a very rare instance,” he said. “I’m sure it has happened somewhere around L. A. County, but I can’t recall a recent instance.”

And Nunez, if he is recaptured, shouldn’t count on another release due to mishaps, Lewis said.

“We will be very cautious about the paperwork if we have him again in custody,” she said.


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