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Murderer on the run after mistaken release

Authorities were searching Wednesday for a convicted murder with an "extensive" criminal history who was accidentally released from custody while awaiting a court appearance in South Carolina, the sheriff's office says.

York County Sheriff's Office

Thomas Aaron Whitlock was released Monday from the York County Detention Center, which only realized the mistake nearly 24 hours later when arrangements were being made to return him to prison, the York County Sheriff's Office says.

Thomas Aaron Whitlock, a 31-year-old convicted of second-degree murder in 2009, was let go Monday afternoon from the York County Detention Center -- which only realized the mistake nearly 24 hours later when arrangements were being made to return him to prison in Windsor, N.C., according to the York County Sheriff's Office.


Whitlock had been taken to York County for a court appearance on drug-related charges.

"I could go into a lot of discussions that we've had as to how this took place," Sheriff Bruce Bryant told The Charlotte Observer. "We deal with thousands and thousands of prisoners each year, book close to 7,000 prisoners each year. There has been a mistake made."

South Carolina records show Whitlock had previously been convicted on burglary, robbery and drug charges. He was arrested in April 2010 by FBI agents who found him hiding under a home in Dallas, Texas, and he was later sentenced to between 11 and 14 years in the death of Jamie Thompson in Charlotte, the newspaper said.

The Sheriff’s Office said it was working with other law enforcement agencies and the North Carolina Division of Adult Correction to find the fugitive. Bryant also has launched an investigation into how Whitlock was released.

Bryant announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to Whitlock's recapture. People with information were urged to call the Sheriff's Office at 803-628-3059 or to go online at http://www.yorkcrimestoppers.com/.

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