Denver, CO – A prison inmate who was granted an early release in order to protect him from COVID-19 has been arrested for the murder of a 21-year-old woman.
Cornelius Haney, 40, was serving a seven-year sentence stemming from an armed robbery charge when he was kicked loose on April 15, WJAX reported.
“Mr. Haney was released due to special needs parole criteria,” Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) spokesperson Annie Skinner said in a statement. “When looking at special needs parole criteria, the Department of Corrections’ medical staff reviews offenders for risk factors related to COVID as documented by the Centers for Disease Control.”
On May 9, police discovered the body of 21-year-old Heather Perry in an alley in the 1400-block of North Verbena, KMGH reported.
Perry, a mother of two, had been fatally shot.
Investigators were able to identify Haney as a suspect using surveillance footage that traced him back to the scene, WJAX reported.
The convicted felon was located in a motel bathroom two days after Perry was killed.
Police said he had two baggies of suspected cocaine hidden in the toilet, WJAX reported.
Haney had been out of prison for just three weeks before Perry’s murder.
He has also been convicted of additional offenses including kidnapping theft, attempted escape and drug charges in the past, and had served a different five-year prison sentence for felony assault, KUSA reported.
Haney now faces new charges of possession of a gun by a previous offender, second-degree kidnapping, drug possession, theft, second-degree murder, and felony murder, according to the Canon City Daily Record.
On Friday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis confirmed that Haney had been released under his executive order, but argued that he would have gotten out of prison by late summer anyway, KCNC reported.
“He would have had mandatory parole granted in August of this year,” Polis said. “He has been up for parole since 2017.”
But Haney was denied parole previously.
“You get passed over for parole because you’re not complying,” Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler told the Canon City Daily Record. “If the Department of Corrections had not cut this guy loose, he would not have murdered this woman. That’s just the fact.”
Polis did not speculate about why the parole board denied Haney’s release for three years.
“In making those decisions, [the parole board is] taking into account the safety of prison guards and others, but no prisoner who is a danger to society should be released early in any situation,” Polis told KCNC. “And of course, nobody on that parole board thought that this person was going to do what they allegedly did, but they couldn’t have held them much longer under the law.”