CROWN POINT | A Lake County commissioner said she is livid a fugitive wanted on child molestation charges was set free by Texas authorities after Lake County courts declined to extradite him.
Commissioner Fran DuPey, D-Hammond, said she could barely sleep Sunday night after learning a man wanted on a Lake County warrant on charges of molesting an 11-year-old Highland girl in 2009 was recently set free in Texas after a Lake judge declined to extradite him. A memo in the court file cited "budget restraints" for the reason behind declining to extradite the defendant.
"Some poor kid has to go through this, and we're just saying that it's all right?" DuPey said, noting her office would be looking into the matter and pushing for extradition. "Something is just not right here."
At issue is a practice Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said the Lake Criminal Court uses pertaining to extradition of wanted suspects.
In the Highland molestation case, Enrique Marks Jr., of Brownsville, Texas, is wanted in Lake County on a Class C felony.
Brownsville police arrested Marks on the warrant last month, but later set him free when Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell declined to extradite him.
Carter said a local court practice generally holds that fugitives wanted on Class C felony warrants will be extradited only if they are arrested within 500 miles of Lake County. It's a matter of cost, Carter said.
Brownsville is about 1,400 miles away.
Carter told The Times last week that a private firm charges $80 per mile to extradite such felons. However, he said Tuesday that the $80 figure was a miscommunication.
Lake County records provided to The Times on Tuesday indicate the cost is actually $1 per mile to extradite fugitives who are arrested out of state. Under those rates, it would cost about $1,400 to transport Marks back through the Arizona-based firm Inmate Services Corp.
The county uses that firm on an as-needed basis for transportation of fugitives arrested from out of state, Lake County Attorney John Dull said. Wanted suspects arrested on warrants within Indiana are transported back to Lake County by the Sheriff's Department.
Senior Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray acknowledged Tuesday the court takes into account the class of crime, distance and prosecutors' recommendations when determining whether to extradite a felon.
But he said the decision is made on a case-by-case basis. He also said the court could change its mind and later choose to extradite a suspect.
Murray said he also understands the desire of parents to extradite people accused of hurting their children, regardless of costs. In the case of Marks, the victim's mother has told The Times and prosecutors she would pay for the extradition costs.
Regardless of cost, Carter said he believes the county should be extraditing anyone who is charged with a prosecutable offense.
"If it's a prosecutable offense, I don't care where they are," he said. "They should be picked up."
DuPey agreed and vowed Tuesday to push for a change between now and the end of the year, when her term of commissioner will end.
"Especially when you're only talking about $1 per mile, why are we not bringing this man back to face justice?" said DuPey, noting she believes fugitives wanted on any felony warrants should be extradited to Lake County if arrested.