Officials: Convicted killer mistakenly released in Louisiana

PLAQUEMINE, La. (AP) — An intense manhunt is underway in Louisiana for a man convicted of manslaughter after he was accidentally released from prison, a corrections spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Benjuiel Johnson completed his time on three felony convictions at Louisiana’s Dixon Correctional Institute, and on Sept. 22 was transferred to another jurisdiction where he faced charges in a separate case before being released.

Johnson should never have been released from Dixon because he still had a sentence to serve following a conviction in Iberville parish, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Corrections. The person processing Johnson’s release paperwork should have noticed the information on the rap sheet and called Iberville parish for details, she said.

Laborde did not have the details herself and Iberville officials did not return phone calls. A local television station, WAFB-TV, reported that Johnson pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2010 shooting death of Cordies Gales, 31. Johnson was convicted for that crime in 2013 as well as possession of a firearm by a felon.

He was sentenced to 35 years in prison for manslaughter and five years for the weapons charge, WAFB-TV reported. At the time of his conviction, he already was serving time for the three felony convictions in state prison.

Laborde said the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office contacted prison officials Monday after receiving information that Johnson might have been released. Officials have been in touch with the victim’s family, Laborde said.

“We are devoting all the resources that we have to bringing him back into custody,” she said. The person responsible will be disciplined, she said. Laborde said the department processes about 17,000 releases a year.

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