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Guilty of dangerous and assaultive crimes, scores of criminals are given one last chance to run
11:57 AM, May 14, 2013
7:30 PM, May 19, 2013
(WXYZ) - In a home along a quiet suburban street, almost every weekend for nearly 2 years, a father sexually assaulted his daughter. He did it, she later testified, in the basement of their home.
It started when she was only 12.
"He would tell me he was going to kill me or he was going to hit me," said the victim, whose identity we are withholding.
The young girl's father was arrested, charged and found guilty of criminal sexual conduct, 2nd degree. He learned he was headed to prison for as many as 15 years.
But before he was sentenced, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans gave him one last taste of freedom by continuing his bond, a defendant's promise to return to court. It gave him six weeks before he'd have to report to prison.
He used that chance to flee.
"I feel like he has more rights than I do," said his victim.
"I pretty much had to go on trial, tell everybody what he did, and then they let him go, and they say: ‘Well, he has a right.' "
Her father never returned to court, and has never seen the inside of a prison cell. Judge Evans says she stands by her decision, and the prosecutor never challenged it.
"The victim would like an apology," said 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones.
"I followed the law," Evans responded.
This scenario is all too common inside Wayne County Circuit Court, where our investigation shows that scores of men and women who've committed dangerous and assaultive crimes are guilty and gone.
Felons like Demetrous Magwood, guilty of assault with intent to murder, felony firearm and more. Though Magwood knew he would spend possibly decades in prison, Judge Edward Ewell decided not to take him into custody right away. Instead, he put him on a tether until his sentencing.
Magwood cut his tether and ran. He's been missing for 716 days.
Judge Ewell declined comment.
"You've got a victim who's now almost seen justice, and you tear that out of their hands to allow this person to go free," said bail agent Justin Butler, who's tasked with finding many of these dangerous criminals once they flee.
Men like Danny Young: guilty of assaulting a police officer and domestic violence 4th offense. Missing 462 days.
Michael Lee Bonasse pled guilty to operating while intoxicated for the third time, and has been on the run for 393 days.
Kenyetta Perez was found guilty of armed robbery and larceny. Facing years in prison, prosecutors say they urged Judge Carole Youngblood to take her into custody immediately. Instead, she let Perez stay out another month. She's been missing for nearly a year-and-a-half.
"These are probably the most difficult people to find, because they have the biggest reason to run and hide," Butler said.
To prosecutors and groups like Crimestoppers, convicted criminals shouldn't be given the chance to run in the first place.
"Why should anyone who has done terrible things in our community, once they're
convicted, be allowed to stay on our streets and possibly commit another
crime?" said Crimestoppers President John Broad.
"Doesn't make any sense to me."
Demetrius Edwards is another criminal given a few more weeks of freedom. After pleading guilty to armed robbery and felony firearm, he knew he was going to prison for up to 12 years.
Citing his otherwise clean record, Judge Bruce Morrow continued Edwards' bond for a few more weeks, and the prosecutor didn't object. Hours later that same day, police say he would shoot and kill Cedell Leverett—a father and husband—
outside Eastland Mall.
His wife didn't want to talk to us for this story, but did want us to know that her husband would have turned 33 this month.
"He was already found guilty of armed robbery. He knew he was going away. Why even give him the chance to flee, or do something even worse?" Jones asked Judge Murrow..
"I think that the chance to do something worse depends on who you are, and doesn't depend on where you are. People offend in jail, people offend in courtrooms," Morrow said.
He conceded, though, that Edwards wouldn't be on trial for murder today if he'd chosen to lock him up.
"We do the best we can," Morrow said, "and our condolences to the Leverett family."
As we completed this report, we learned that the father who fled after a criminal sexual conduct conviction recently died of a heart attack. His family says he got the easy way out, not having to serve a day in prison.