Man tied to death of Duluth man released from jail by mistake

1:05 AM, Jul 23, 2013   |    comments
  • Robert Craig Sandman
  • Donald Singer (family photo)
    
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DULUTH, Ga. -- A possible suspect in an apparent murder in Duluth was released from jail by mistake.  A nationwide search is underway for him.

Police are expressing confidence that they will find and re-arrest the person-of-interest, but the family of the man who was killed can't understand how this could have happened.

The person-of-interest is Robert Craig Sandman, 52.

Sandman is wanted for questioning in the suspicious death of Donald Singer, 57, of Duluth in late March.

Donald Singer's grown children found Singer's body inside his home, wrapped in blankets.  There were signs of forced entry into his home.

His Porsche and credit cards were gone.

The medical examiner has not yet ruled on the cause of death, but, "We have been investigating his death as a homicide," which is routine in suspicious death cases, said Duluth Police Maj. Don Woodruff on Monday.

Maj. Woodruff said Duluth police quickly identified Robert Sandman as their person-of-interest.

Investigators believe Sandman drove Singer's Porsche from Duluth, across the country, all the way to Sandoval County, New Mexico, just north of Albuquerque.

And when Sheriff's deputies there caught up with Sandman, they say he had Singer's Porsche and credit cards.

But after a court hearing, during which Sandman waived extradition back to Georgia, there was a paperwork mistake.

No one is clear how it happened.

And Sandman was released from the Sandoval County jail before Duluth police could bring him back to Georgia.

"Unfortunately the family is very frustrated by the fact that he's not in custody, as are we," said Duluth Police Major Don Woodruff on Monday. "It's not over, we will get him, we will arrest him, we will extradite him to Georgia, we will continue to investigate the case."

"It's unfortunate that Mr. Sandman was released," said Lt. Keith Elder of the Sandoval County Sheriff's Office. "His public defender petitioned the court for his release because he had not been picked up by the Georgia authorities. The judge had no recourse other than to sign the release order."

"New Mexico authorities did not notify the proper authorities here to get extradition arranged," Maj. Woodruff said.

Duluth police did not know for two months that Sandman had been released, they found out on July 11th.

Donald Singer's daughter, Janice Black, said, "Our one piece of comfort was knowing this man was in jail.... Both departments dropped the ball, but this happened in Duluth, our family put our faith in them."

"I don't know how to express adequately our condolences to the family," Lt. Elder said, "because they're victims in this, now. It's an unfortunate set of events that transpired" which, he said, will be investigated to find out how to make sure nothing like it ever happens again.

According to police, Sandman's criminal record includes pleading guilty to killing his wife in 1992 in New Mexico; he served nine years in prison. 

11Alive News has not yet been able to contact the District Attorney's office in Sandoval County, NM, to find out what prosecutors did or did not do with the paperwork that resulted in Sandman's release.

Greg Shillinglaw of The Journal News in Westchester, County, New York, contributed to this report.

 

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