DC Halfway House Escapee Facing New Federal Murder Charge

A Washington, D.C., man who pleaded guilty to illegally walking away from a local halfway house faces new federal murder charges stemming from his escape.

Federal prosecutors have charged Marcel Vines and two other men in the December 2017 kidnapping and shooting deaths of 23-year-old Kerrice Lewis and 27-year-old Armani Coles.

Vines and suspects Ashton Briscoe and Malique Lewis were expected to stand trial in D.C.’s Superior Court before federal prosecutors moved the case to U.S. District Court last month, where they could pursue the death penalty. All three men have pleaded not guilty.

The news comes amid renewed scrutiny on Hope Village, where Vines was finishing out a sentence related to drug and firearm charges.

A News4 I-Team investigation found the facility has an outsized number of inmates who illegally leave the facility each year. Nearly one in 10 of what federal authorities call escapes or untimely returns by halfway house inmates occurs from the Southeast facility.

A review of federal prison records for the past few years shows approximately 1,100 inmates nationwide fail to return at scheduled times, or at all, to federal halfway houses in the United States.

Hope Village accounted for about 10 percent of those cases in 2016 and 2017, though it only accounted for 3 percent of the federal halfway house population, according to a News4 analysis. Those figures slightly improved in 2018, federal records show.

Another former Hope Village inmate is accused of committing murder after illegally walking away from the facility.

Police said Domenic Micheli fled to Nashville and slayed his former boss with a hatchet last June, days after escaping from Hope Village.

Attorneys for Lana Paavola filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week against the facility, federal public safety agencies and the D.C. Department of Corrections.

In the suit, they allege negligence in allowing the suspected killer to escape. Micheli has pleaded not guilty to murdering Joel Paavola.

Paavola initially filed the case in Nashville in April, but her attorneys said they moved it to the District to solve a potential protracted fight over jurisdiction.

Hope Village has previously declined an interview with News4 but defended its record in a written statement last month, saying it “takes public safety and the accountability of our returning citizens seriously,” properly tracks and verifies inmates’ whereabouts and reports all instances in which someone fails to return on time.

Hope Village said it reports all cases of “reported escapes, walkaways” and “untimely arrivals” to the Bureau of Prisons and said it’s the BOP’s responsibility to notify law enforcement.

It also suggested its annual number of escapes is lower than indicated in federal records, writing: “When an objective analysis is performed of people who go through the program versus those who leave ... the number of escapes that are correctly classified are relatively low."

Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Katie Leslie, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.

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