A convicted armed robber who escaped from a state prison last week was allowed unsupervised access to the prison grounds even though he was convicted of a shooting death in the District and has been sentenced to a lengthy prison term there, too.

Corrections officials said yesterday that they believe Raymond Eric Dodd, 24, of Landover, escaped July 12 during his work shift as a prison janitor at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown. He has not been recaptured.

The janitorial job regularly included outdoor tasks such as window washing and litter pickup that allowed Dodd to roam the area around the prison's Housing Unit No. 4 without constant monitoring, officials confirmed yesterday.

Corrections officials said that they have not determined how Dodd escaped and that a comprehensive security review at the prison is underway. At the same time, officials defended Dodd's prison work assignment.

"His charges did not prevent him from being assigned to a custodial job," corrections spokesman Dave Towers said. "Inmates of various security levels work at a variety of jobs, from kitchen work to maintainence, that allow them access to potentially dangerous tools or to the prison grounds. That's the nature of things."

Dodd, who was serving an 18-year sentence for armed robbery, is scheduled to serve a District sentence of 10 years to life for manslaughter when he completes the Maryland sentence.

And all the while, Dodd had written judges who handled his various cases asking for reductions in his sentences, contending that the lengthy incarceration was ruining his life. Corrections officials said they were unaware of his correspondence with judges in Prince George's County and the District.

State police investigators believe Dodd escaped on a garbage truck, operated by a private contractor, that left the prison grounds during his work shift.

"He apparently has been seen and is known to be alive," said one investigator, who added that a police search team "missed him by minutes" at one point.

Dodd was transferred to Hagerstown from another state prison this year. He had been transferred there from yet another state prison after corrections officers found a meticulous record of prison garbage deliveries in his cell, according to a source close to the investigation. And hours after his escape last week, investigators found sketches of a garbage truck and a rough map of the trash dump area of the prison, police and other sources said.

"This escape is troubling because we don't know how he got out, we know he's still at large, and we know he's a dangerous criminal," said Del. Peter Franchot (D-Montgomery), who chairs the House of Delegates subcommittee that funds the prison system.

Dodd was serving an 18-year sentence for a Prince George's County armed robbery. He was to be held until May 2009, with an earlier release for good behavior possible. Immediately after his Maryland sentence was completed, he was to be taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service and sent to prison for the District manslaughter conviction.

According to a police affidavit, on Sept. 24, 1992, Dodd tried to rob a Northeast Washington home and in the process fatally shot Adbur-Rahim Muhammad of New York. A year later, he pleaded guilty to one count of attempted robbery while armed and one count of voluntary manslaughter while armed, according to D.C. Superior Court records.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Cheryl T. Long originally sentenced Dodd, then 17 years old, to three years' probation under the D.C. Youth Rehabilitation Act, which allows judges sentencing flexibility to give young lawbreakers a chance to make amends.

Dodd violated that D.C. probation when he was arrested in the Prince George's County armed robbery on Aug, 2, 1995. After Maryland authorities sentenced him to what Long called "a substantial period of incarceration," she revoked his probation on May 29, 1997, sentencing him to 10 years to life and ordered the sentence to be served after he completed his Maryland time.

Dodd said he was not the man who pulled the trigger in Muhammad's death, and he wrote numerous letters to the court expressing his frustration with the sentence.

In a letter to Long, he said that the second sentence, which could start when he turns 36, would ruin his life: "At the age of 36, I would have already missed a lot of my life. . . . I would really be useless in society. It would be even more difficult for me to get my life back together."

Staff writer Craig Whitlock and Metro researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this story.