An accused killer who mistakenly was released from a jail in Loudoun County, Virginia, was arrested Friday evening in Chatham County, Georgia.
Stone L. Colburn had been in custody since July 2021, accused of killing his brother's girlfriend. He was freed Thursday after the initial charges against him were dropped, despite the fact that a new charge was placed.
In a complicated case, there is already finger-pointing going on about who is to blame.
We're making it easier for you to find stories that matter with our new newsletter — The 4Front. Sign up here and get news that is important for you to your inbox.
But a mental health evaluation found Colburn mentally incompetent, so the case has been largely held, and until Thursday, he was at Central State, a mental health facility.
Colburn’s defense planned to ask the judge to find the accused unrestorably incompetent, which would have kept him in a mental health facility for at least five years, but prosecutors have been trying to get a general district court judge to approve funding for a second mental health evaluation, in part to be sure Colburn was not feigning his mental illness.
“We could not in good conscience allow Colburn to avoid a trial if we were not convinced of his competency,” explained Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj.
Northern Virginia news, events and updates
But at Thursday’s hearing, that request for a second mental health evaluation was denied and the commonwealth’s attorney moved to nolle prosequi (or dismiss) the original charges of murder and stabbing in commission of a felony. In order to keep Colburn in custody, the commonwealth used an unusual legal technique get a new charge of concealing a dead body.
That transferred the case to circuit court where the prosecution hoped a different judge would grant the request for another mental health evaluation.
It appears the jail saw the murder charge dismissed and released Colburn.
"What went wrong is that the sheriff's office didn't abide by the court's order, which said transport him to the jail and hold him so that he could answer to these charges," Biberaj said.
Biberaj said senior staff at her office briefed jail staff by phone before the hearing to make it clear they intended for Colburn to remain in custody on the new charge.
“We were diligent in using our most experienced attorneys in fashioning a safety plan to make sure Colburn remained in custody as we navigated processes within the legal system,” Biberaj said.
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman says his department is still sorting out what went wrong, but he said the priority was finding Colburn. Details about his arrest in Pooler, Georgia, will be released when available, according to the sheriff's office.
Chapman says it does appear there was confusion in the jail over the paperwork.
"This was moved up from District Court to Circuit Court," he said. "I think it was an unusual set of circumstances, unusual documentation. I think there was confusion in the way it was handled and miscommunication back and forth."
But Biberaj says her staff had several conversations with jail staff about the plan to continue holding Colburn.
The victim's family said they have no comment at this time.
CORRECTION (Oct. 7, 2022. 5:02 p.m.): An earlier version said Crow was Colburn's girlfriend; she was in fact his brother's girlfriend. It also misstated the year that Crow was killed.
CORRECTION (Oct. 8, 2022. 11:30 a.m.): An earlier version's subtitle said he was charged in July 2015; he was charged in July 2021.