Slaying Suspect Free by Mistake

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Prince William County officials accidentally released a man charged with murder and didn't notice the mistake until five days later, authorities said yesterday.

Authorities said that they have no idea where Christopher T. Broady is and that he is dangerous.

"He is on trial for murder so that should give you an indication of the seriousness of this, of how hard we are trying to get him back," Manassas Detective Christine Perry said. "This is a priority. . . . It is number one."

Broady, 19, is charged with shooting a D.C. man in the head in an apparent drug dispute. He walked out of jail Friday, and the mistake was not noticed until Tuesday.

"He could be anywhere. He could be in Arizona, Mexico, South America," Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D) said.

Jail officials and prosecutors said Broady was released in a period of confusion after murder charges against him had been dropped in Prince William Circuit Court but were pending in General District Court.

"I think the breakdown was in the overall process," Jail Superintendent Charles "Skip" Land said. "I think we took the steps to protect the public and verify it and, unfortunately, the jail released him when the courts wanted him held."

Broady is charged with killing Bernard S. Matthews, 22, on Feb. 1. Matthews was shot and left lying near Bruckner Road in the Georgetown South community of Prince William. The slaying made headlines because another man robbed Matthews before police could take him to the hospital. He died the next day.

A week later, authorities found Broady in Danville and charged him with murder in Matthews's slaying and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He told his girlfriend's father that the shooting was over drugs, according to court testimony by the father, James Holmes.

The path to Broady's release began when Holmes did not show up to testify at an Aug. 21 hearing in Circuit Court. That prompted authorities to drop the charges in that court. But simultaneously, prosecutors charged Broady in General District Court. He should have been held pending a preliminary hearing in that court.

Prosecutors also mistakenly sought a second indictment against Broady. When that indictment was returned Sept. 5, prosecutors later dropped it because the case was pending in the lower court.

That's when jail officials saw the paperwork saying Broady should be released. Land said officials called court clerks to check that the charges were dismissed and were told they were.

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