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Mistakenly released murder suspect remains at large

Mistakenly released murder suspect remains at large
Steven Lawrence Wright was erroneously released from an L.A. County jail on Jan. 30. (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

Nearly a week after Los Angeles County sheriff's employees mistakenly released a suspected killer from jail, law enforcement officers have yet to find him, officials said Friday.

Steven Lawrence Wright, 37, was released at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. However, sheriff's officials didn't realize he was no longer in custody until about 30 hours later.

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Wright, an alleged gang member, was awaiting trial in the 2011 shooting death of Donnell Taylor in Pasadena. He was also scheduled for sentencing for a separate attempted murder conviction.

The prisoner's release was the culmination of a series of paperwork errors, according to officials and court documents.

Court records show that Wright was sentenced to five days for contempt of court, after he refused to testify at another person's trial.

A copy of the court clerk's instructions, which was released Tuesday, shows that the clerk entered the court docket number of Wright's murder case, instead of the contempt charge.

"This one page erroneously told us to release this person on the murder charge," said Sheriff's Cmdr. Keith Swensson.

The clerk's mistake was then compounded during a three-step review at the jail, Swensson said. No one there noticed that the clerk also left a handwritten note at the bottom of the form with the case number of the contempt charge. Though ambiguous, it was a red flag, Swensson said.

In a practice established recently to cut down on human errors, a reception clerk, a supervisor and a backup checker all reviewed the transmittal from the court.

"All three looked at it and believed the information was correct," Swensson said. "But it wasn't."

Authorities didn't learn Wright was free until about 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff's Department offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Wright's capture.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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