The stranger came in through the kitchen window, readying the German semiautomatic.

The little girl saw him first. "Daddy! Daddy!" screamed 9-year-old Erika Smith.

Upstairs, in the house on a shady street in Silver Spring, her father dropped the phone he'd been talking into. "Erika!" Greg Russell roared. The line cut off.

By the time police kicked in the front door that August night in 2002, father and child had been shot to death.

Three nights later, the killer struck again, prosecutors say.

Seattle tourist Katie Hill was shot in the head, moments after stepping out of the Takoma Metro station in Northwest Washington. Hill, a lawyer who favored the gentle pastimes of knitting and pen collecting, fell onto her back, arms splayed above her head.

The slayings were shocking in their randomness and brutality, and there was community outrage when police identified the killer as a D.C. parolee named Anthony Kelly -- a veteran criminal who had been released from prison nearly five years early. Parole agencies maintained that they had done all they could to keep him in check.

Prosecutors have since charged Kelly with killing three people, raping two women, assaulting a police officer and stealing five guns and five cars -- all in the nine months after he left prison. Most of the crimes occurred while he was on "maximum supervision."

Documents and interviews show that Kelly never should have qualified for parole and that he should have been locked up again well before the killings.

Other mistakes occurred, including failures by parole employees to follow parole agency guidelines and lapses in supervision. After Kelly was arrested in an assault on a police officer, his parole officer did not know that Kelly failed to show up for a pretrial hearing until nearly three weeks later -- and then only when Kelly called to tell him.

So many agencies missed so many chances to stop Kelly before the killings that it "sounds like the worst case I've ever heard of," said Carl Wicklund, a 30-year veteran of parole issues and executive director of the American Probation and Parole Association, a 30,000-member organization of criminal justice professionals. "It's almost surreal."

Kelly, 40, repeatedly has said he was arrested as a scapegoat in the high-profile slayings and that he was somewhere else when each homicide occurred. He has said that he is especially angry that police would charge him with the slaying of a child and that he wants to face trial quickly to prove his innocence. His defense attorney has suggested that police might have planted evidence against him.

The prosecutions against him in Montgomery County and the District stalled this spring after a judge ruled that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial. He is in custody in a maximum-security ward of a psychiatric facility in Maryland.

Whatever the outcome of Kelly's trials, the implications of the case are particularly disturbing in the District, one of the nation's most violent cities. Kelly, whose IQ has been tested at 67, fooled his parole officers for months. Some 2,500 other inmates come home from prison to the city each year, and law enforcement agencies struggle to keep track of roughly 14,000 men and women who are on parole or probation at any given time.

In that shifting tide of difficult lives, parole officials thought they knew all about Anthony Kelly.

They were wrong.

A Life Marked by Crime

Trouble and Anthony Kelly have long been on a first-name basis. He has spent more than half of his adult life in prison, according to court records, having been convicted over the years of 14 crimes, 12 of them felonies.

A grade-school dropout, Kelly endured a poverty-stricken childhood in Northeast and Southeast Washington, according to psychological evaluations filed in court. By 20, he notched his fourth arrest as an adult, and he went to prison after pleading guilty to "34 second-degree burglaries . . . 12 car thefts and 27 thefts from autos," court records show.

Broad-shouldered and strong, Kelly repeatedly fought with inmates and argued with guards, according to records and psychological evaluations. A parole officer at Lorton Correctional Complex noted in a 1988 report that Kelly was "extremely troubled . . . a pathological liar."

In 1996, he was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for pulling out a gun, chambering a round, pointing the weapon at his wife's aunt and threatening to "blow off" her head, as well as her husband's, according to court documents.

Life did not get easier in prison. An enraged fellow inmate stabbed Kelly in the back of the head shortly after he was incarcerated, nearly killing him. Over the years, Kelly reported neck and back pain from that and other incidents, as well as pneumonia, vomiting blood, ulcers and an irregular heartbeat.

While in prison, he filed more than 30 handwritten lawsuits against police, prosecutors, the judge, prison officials, even his defense attorney. Meanwhile, he told these people and others that he was a changed man.

"I am so glad that I did time, because it woke me up, and now I am a good person," he wrote in a letter to his sentencing judge during the winter of 2000. He continued the thought in a subsequent handwritten missive: "It is time to give back to society for all that I have taken from it. . . . [I am] no threat to the community at all."

The U.S. Parole Commission concluded that Kelly deserved another chance in 2001 and granted his request to be released.

The commission did not realize that Kelly was not who he was presenting himself to be. While petitioning for parole, Kelly submitted a phony GED certificate, dated March 17, 2000, and he was seeking millions of dollars in loans from banks for a nonexistent business, records show. The false GED helped Kelly maintain an "ordinary program achievement" record, a status that changed his score on an agency grid from "deny parole" to getting parole "with highest level of supervision," according to agency guidelines. The agency did not notice the deception.

Thomas Hutchison, the parole commission's chief of staff, declined comment on Kelly's case, citing federal privacy regulations that protect inmates' records. He said either the parole commission or federal Bureau of Prisons should verify the information in parole requests.

On Dec. 12, 2001, the Parole Commission released Kelly from prison -- nearly five years before his full term would have been up. The commission ordered that Kelly spend time at a halfway house; after that, he was to be freed with a high level of supervision.

A Release Based on Deception

Kelly appeared to be a model inmate when he was released from prison to Hope Village, the largest halfway house in the city. The facility, in the 2800 block of Langston Place SE, is overseen by the Bureau of Prisons.

He tested negative for drugs, took required classes in life-skills and told halfway house officers that he had a job hauling trash for a landscaping business at $6.50 an hour, halfway house records show.

In reality, Kelly never had a job; his stepfather was pretending to be his employer. And prosecutors now charge that Kelly was driving a stolen car, a flashy Chrysler Sebring convertible, for three months while living at Hope Village.

"I went up to Hope Village and we pretended he had a job with me hauling trash so they would let him out," William Barker Jr., Kelly's stepfather, testified at a pretrial hearing in Montgomery County this year, saying he did so at Kelly's insistence. "He would get in my truck, and ride around the corner and get out and get in his car."

Parole regulations specify that inmates must be employed before they can be released from halfway houses. An inmate who falsifies employment records would be in violation of his "contract" with the halfway house and would be sent back to prison, said Dan Dunn, spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. Working for relatives is generally forbidden, Dunn said.

The halfway house staff did not realize that Kelly's purported employer was his stepfather or that the employment records they checked were false, Dunn said, nor did they know he was driving a stolen vehicle.

"Obviously, if the staff had known he was driving a stolen car, that would have resulted not only in a return to prison on parole violations, but also in fresh criminal charges," Dunn said.

Kelly's halfway house supervisors wrote a "final progress report" on March 8, 2002, that said he had been a model inmate and deserved to be released on parole. They noted that he had met all of his obligations and that he followed halfway house rules.

"His prognosis for the future is favorable," summed up his case manager, Darnell Davis, and the facility's assistant director, Robert Emerson.

Halfway house officials released him to the streets.

A Sham Continued

Once Kelly left the halfway house, he moved to the custody of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the federal agency created in 1997 to monitor D.C. inmates on probation and parole.

The agency put Kelly on "maximum supervision" -- its second-toughest standard. It assigned the case to community supervision officer Jeffrey Barlow, who had been on the job for a little more than a year. Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency officials would not describe Barlow's work on Kelly's case in detail or reveal his prior background, and Barlow declined through the agency and a union official to be interviewed.

Under maximum supervision, Kelly was required to meet Barlow once a week for a few minutes, fill out paperwork that attested to his job and living arrangements, and take regular drug tests. Barlow also was required to personally verify Kelly's employment status and his place of residence.

Barlow testified at a pretrial hearing for Kelly this year that he met with him "16 to 17" times during the roughly six months that Kelly was out of the halfway house and free, starting March 8.

Kelly showed up on time for his appointments and tested negative for drugs, Barlow testified. Barlow, who had about 70 other parolees to check on, testified that he thought Kelly "was actually adjusting well." He said that Kelly appeared to be "opening up" in conversations about his family and life after prison. Kelly did not seem "standoffish," Barlow added, and "everything seemed normal."

Like the staff at the halfway house, Barlow did not realize that Kelly's job was a sham or that he was driving a series of stolen cars.

Kelly's family testified that he was bragging behind Barlow's back about being "back in the game," which his sister said she understood to mean the drug trade.

Family members also testified that Kelly secretly was cutting counterfeit checks, filling out fraudulent W-2 forms and filing false loan and mortgage applications.

Less than two weeks after Kelly was released from the halfway house, on March 21, he raped and beat a 60-year-old woman in Silver Spring, according to an indictment filed in Montgomery County. Kelly, who would not be a suspect in the case for months, broke the woman's wrist, separated her shoulder, and pistol-whipped her across the face during the assault, according to police reports. He has pleaded not guilty to charges in the case.

For his part, Barlow testified, he believed Kelly was doing so well that he bumped him into the "medium supervision" category in the spring, cutting back their meetings to every other week.

Kelly also successfully concealed where he was living. He initially resided with his mother and stepfather in the 4300 block of South Capitol Terrace in Southwest Washington. But in the spring, without telling Barlow, he moved in with his girlfriend Tonya Kie in an apartment complex in the 6600 block of Georgia Avenue NW, court records show.

The location would later draw police interest. It was three blocks from where Katie Hill was slain.

An Arrest Missed

Authorities had perhaps their clearest opportunity to return Kelly to custody in June, two months before the killings. On the night of June 10, Kelly was arrested while driving a stolen Toyota after stopping at a liquor store in Prince George's County that is a few hundred feet from the District line.

Police said that Kelly tried to run and that a fight ensued. "He began to punch and kick this officer with closed fists and feet," a police report states. Bruised in the scuffle, Kelly was jailed on charges of car theft and assaulting a police officer. He later said that the car was a friend's, that he did not know it was stolen and that the police officer assaulted him.

Had Kelly been arrested in the District, his parole officer would have been notified by computer the next day, as the city's police and parole agencies share daily arrest information. But the federal Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency has no such arrangement with police in Prince George's, leaving open the possibility that it will not learn about an arrest in the neighboring jurisdiction.

"The Prince George's County Police Department has no mandated policy to interface with parole authorities upon the arrest of an individual," police spokesman Lt. Steven Yuen wrote in an e-mail response to a series of written questions about Kelly's case.

Kelly's stepfather posted a $1,200 bond and Kelly was back on the streets -- before Barlow even knew that he had been arrested.

Free again, Kelly almost immediately stole another car, a white Cadillac El Dorado, prosecutors allege.

Barlow learned of the arrest in Prince George's only when Kelly told him about it. But he and other parole officers have no authority to arrest inmates for violating parole, and they cannot order them sent back to prison. Only the U.S. Parole Commission can do that; although it reviews the recommendations of parole officers, it does not regard them as binding.

In a memo dated June 20, Barlow recommended that the commission revoke Kelly's parole. But the request was not marked urgent, and the commission did not regard it as serious enough to merit even a hearing.

The night Barlow wrote his memo, Kelly forced a 20-year-old woman in Wheaton into the front seat of the stolen Cadillac at knife-point, drove her to a wooded area and raped her, prosecutors charged in court filings. He did not become a suspect for several months. Kelly later wrote the judge in this case that the sex was consensual and that the woman pressed charges after he refused to pay her for sex.

On July 9 -- nearly a month after the alleged assault on a police officer -- the parole commission ruled that Kelly should remain free until that criminal case took its course.

"That is simply mind-boggling," said James Austin, director of the Institute on Crime, Justice and Corrections at George Washington University, who has written manuals for parole board members. "It's the kind of thing that gives corrections a bad name."

Losing Track of Kelly

As the summer wore on, Barlow returned Kelly to maximum supervision status. But he saw him only one more time, on July 10.

Kelly reported for his next meeting as scheduled on July 17, Barlow testified, but Barlow was not there to see him. Another staff member filled in, which is acceptable, agency officials said, because parole officers are sometimes delayed in court or meeting other offenders.

Once again, on July 29, Kelly came in as scheduled. This time, Barlow was away on "approved leave," the agency said.

Kelly never came back.

The next day, he failed to appear in court in Prince George's on the assault and car theft charges. Police there immediately issued an arrest warrant but did not inform D.C. officials.

Barlow did not keep track of the case in Prince George's. The agency has said that he did not know that Kelly was a no-show or that a warrant was issued for more than two weeks.

That was not a mistake, Barlow's supervisors said in an interview. The agency's policy does not require parole officers to find out whether their own parolees who have been arrested show up for trials or hearings.

Barlow called Kelly's cell phone once, but got no answer, agency officials said. Kelly did not report to any Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency office for more than three weeks, records show, and his absence was not reported.

For Anthony Kelly, there were no swift consequences for violating his "maximum supervision." Late Aug. 1, he smashed a window at a gun store in Kensington and stole five pistols, according to indictment papers -- including the one that would be used to kill.

Death at an Intruder's Hands

On the night of Aug. 6, real estate entrepreneur Greg Russell and his daughter Erika were preparing for bed. Russell, 47, who shared child-raising responsibilities with Carol Smith, Erika's mother, lived in a modest red-brick colonial in the 9300 block of Columbia Boulevard in Silver Spring, a tranquil street just off the bustle of Georgia Avenue.

Smith, an information technology manager, and Russell had been friends for two decades. Erika was their only child. Her sleepover at her dad's house was a regular feature of her young life; she loved it because her doting father would sometimes allow her to ride her bike indoors, which produced fits of giggles.

About 10:30 p.m., Erika called her maternal grandmother to say good night. Russell then got into a phone conversation with a friend, a call that stretched beyond 11.

In the darkness of the back yard, Kelly apparently put on a wig and a fake beard, police wrote in summaries of that night, citing the discovery of wrapping paper for the costumes and hair fibers outside the house. The documents say that he apparently cut the screen on the kitchen window and slid inside, carrying a stolen .32-caliber pistol.

Moments later, Russell was on the phone with a 911 operator, screaming that he was shot.

Police rushed to the house and found him on the upstairs landing, bleeding profusely. Gasping, he told them that his assailant was a large black man, with unkempt bushy hair and a beard. He had been shot eight times -- twice in the chest, twice in the left forearm, three times in the thighs and once in the lower left leg. It was as if he had waved his arms and legs in front of him, attempting to shield himself.

A few feet away, officers found Erika.

She lay on the floor in her room, near the closet. Slender and pretty, with long hair and honey-brown skin, she had been struck across the right side of her face, leaving a laceration across her forehead. There was a single gunshot wound on the right top side of her shoulder, just below the neck. She had been shot at point-blank range.

The angle of the shot indicated the gunman had towered above her, according to the autopsy report.

Eight bullets for Greg Russell, one for Erika; the killer had emptied the clip into father and child.

A Tourist's Fatal Course

Two days later, Katie Hill flew into the Washington area.

She was an affable, 36-year-old lawyer for a nonprofit agency in Seattle, attending a convention devoted to her favorite pastime: collecting fountain pens. Hill met a group of women collectors for dinner at a hotel in Tysons Corner the day after her arrival, a Friday. They broke up about 10:30 p.m.

Hill was staying with her in-laws in the Takoma neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Despite the late hour, she turned down the offer of a ride and took Metro. One of the last to see her alive was fellow pen collector Lisa Haines, who saw her walking out the door. Hill was about 5 feet 5 inches tall, maybe 140 pounds, with a round face and glasses. She was wearing a black skirt and a yellow and green blouse over a red T-shirt.

"I remember thinking she had the cutest shoes on, these little black sandals," Haines said. "I asked her if she wanted a ride home. She said no, no, she could make it. . . . I don't think she thought twice about it."

Hill stepped off the train at the Takoma station about 11:30 p.m. She made a U-turn out of the station, walking slightly uphill on Cedar Street, the huge trees casting shadows from the streetlights. She turned into the schoolyard of Takoma Educational Center, an elementary school, using a brightly lighted passageway as a shortcut to the home.

Prosecutors charge that Kelly approached, looking to steal her wallet, camera and other possessions.

"I think he came out shooting from wherever he was hiding," said John Fletcher, Hill's brother-in-law, who was waiting at home for her a block away. "The neighbors heard a shot, a scream, and then shot, shot, shot."

Hill was shot in the torso, wrist, arm and head. She was found sprawled on her back, arms and legs flung out wide.

Married Near the Crime Scene

The killings drew headlines and intense news coverage, and as police searched for clues and fear rippled through the community, Anthony Kelly stayed put.

A few days after Hill's slaying, Kelly married his girlfriend, Tonya Kie, at a church two blocks from the murder site. It was a short ceremony that attracted no attention.

The next week, as police remained stumped, Kelly re-established contact with Barlow, calling the parole officer Aug. 16 and telling him that he had missed the pretrial hearing in Prince George's -- the first Barlow knew about it.

Barlow did not report it, records show.

A few days later, more than 350 frightened neighbors packed the same church where Kelly had gotten married to demand answers from Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and police officials about who Hill's killer might be.

No one knew.

On Aug. 20, Kelly took his wife and her son for pizza. He was driving a stolen Chevrolet Tahoe that police said had been used in a recent robbery and attempted sexual assault. Takoma Park police recognized the truck's license plates and gave chase.

Kelly floored it, leading police in a high-speed pursuit that ended when he crashed into a utility pole. He got out of the truck and fled, leaving behind Kie and her son.

In the resulting search of the truck and Kie's apartment, records show that police found items that for the first time tied Kelly to the three slayings: Hill's camera; an inscribed Bible taken from Russell's house; a costume beard and wig that matched fibers found at Russell's house; and a bullet matching the type used in the killings. Police said they found two guns in the truck that had been stolen in the Kensington burglary. Ballistics tests later showed that the weapon in all three slayings was one of the other guns taken in that break-in, according to a police report.

On Aug. 21, a D.C. police officer called Barlow, telling him police were looking for Kelly. The officer did not tell Barlow why.

Barlow testified that he called Kelly on his cell phone and was stunned when Kelly declared, without being asked, that he didn't "murder" anybody.

But Barlow did not treat the information as an urgent matter. His testimony and a later agency record of the events show that he did not call the police. He did not call the Parole Commission, either. Nor did he send them a fax, which the agency typically uses in urgent matters.

Instead, with a massive police manhunt for Kelly developing across the region, Barlow dropped a request for an arrest warrant in the mail the day after they spoke. It took six days to reach the Parole Commission, which issued a warrant the next day.

"The understanding we have with [the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency] is that if there's a public safety situation, they will fax those warrant requests to us, " the parole commission's Hutchison said.

Barlow testified that he and his supervisor reached Kelly on his cell phone Sept. 5, urging him to surrender to police. Kelly hung up on him, Barlow testified.

Kelly was arrested late that night, after police officers spotted him on foot in College Park, gave chase and, this time, caught him.

Maintaining His Innocence

Kelly has maintained his innocence in handwritten court motions, as well as telephone interviews and letters to The Washington Post.

He has said he was at other locations the nights of the killings. The only person who can vouch for him has moved to California and cannot be found, he said.

"I didn't come out there and go on a rampage," he said in a telephone interview from the maximum security ward of Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup late last year. "I didn't kill nobody. . . . Killing people, robbing people? Look at me since I was 19. . . . I've never been charged with robbing or shooting somebody."

Kelly said that he was attempting to start up a discount clothing store, one that eventually would rival Wal-Mart, when police arrested and beat him during the June 10 arrest in Prince George's County. He said that incident led police to blame him for the later crimes.

His father, Roosevelt Kelly, told a psychologist examining Kelly that his son loved children and said that "the thing he's charged with, no, that's not him at all."

Kelly's court-appointed attorney in Montgomery County, Mary Siegfried, has bolstered Kelly's contention that police and prosecutors are trying to frame him. Russell, the murder victim, she wrote in a letter to Roosevelt Kelly, "must have something to hide."

"[The police] already have Anthony's DNA, so it wouldn't be too hard to plant it on something," she wrote in a letter. "Review the bible they say belonged to the deceased, . . . if it was really their's, which I doubt, their DNA should be somewhere on it."

A Case's Profile Fades

In the two years since that night, the case of Anthony Kelly has faded from the headlines. There are days when Carol Smith and her relatives have been the only spectators for court hearings.

This spring, she was stunned when Montgomery County Circuit Judge Durke G. Thompson declared Kelly to be incompetent to face the charges against him. The 63-page psychiatric evaluation of Kelly from the staff at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital -- "the longest and most involved report of evaluation in the recent history of Perkins," the judge wrote -- set off a series of contentious hearings.

According to the hospital staff, Kelly's worries about a government conspiracy to frame him have spiraled into full-blown delusions. At the same time, the psychologists acknowledge that he does not suffer from paranoid schizophrenia or mental retardation; he knows who everyone in the courtroom is and what their roles are.

"But, ultimately, he believes the death penalty or conviction is not a threat to him because he thinks the whole process is a means to make him tell them who actually did it," Angela Kim-Lee, director of pretrial services at Perkins, said in an interview. "That's what we thought was delusional."

Deputy State's Attorney John J. McCarthy fought that evaluation hard. Putting witness after witness on the stand who said Kelly appeared fine, McCarthy strove to show that Kelly's worries of a conspiracy were mere repetitions of things his own attorney has told him.

"He's not delusional -- he's repeating what his own lawyer said," McCarthy told the judge.

Thompson disagreed, and the case has stalemated. There will be no trial until the court finds that Kelly's mental condition has changed, and it is not clear how, or when, that might transpire.

Meanwhile, Paul A. Quander Jr., director of Court Services and Offender Supervision, has defended his agency's conduct in the Kelly case. In a letter dated Aug. 8, 2003 to D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), who questioned the handling of the case, Quander said that he believes "our agency responded to Mr. Kelly's conduct in an appropriate and timely manner."

Agency officials have declined to release their file on Kelly, citing federal privacy rules. In an interview this year, Quander said that his agency had noticed "some things could be done better" and made changes after the case. But he declined to specify what actions were taken. Barlow continues to handle parole cases, and Quander declined to say whether Barlow had been disciplined.

"There are no guarantees that I, as director of this agency, can give that people on supervision won't violate the law despite our best efforts," Quander said.

Love and Remembrance

Sometimes late at night, in the eye-fluttering moments that lie between wakefulness and sleep, Carol Smith can almost see Greg Russell and their child again, as if they somehow can still be found on the edges of passing time.

On the first anniversary of the slayings, dismayed by how the case had faded from public attention, she placed a death notice in the newspaper.

"Today is a day of remembrance and many sad regrets. It's a day we will always remember when the rest of the world forgets," she wrote.

In the notice, she included a picture of Erika and Greg, taken at Erika's last piano recital, at which she played "The Donkey." Erika is beaming, sitting up straight with good piano-playing posture, her long, dark hair falling over her shoulders. Greg, his arm around the child, can't keep a proud smile from sneaking across his face.

They look happy, a girl and her dad, having fun in the last summer of their lives.

Anthony Kelly killed three after release, prosecutors say.

"It's a day we will always remember when the rest of the world forgets," Carol Smith wrote on the first anniversary of the slayings of her daughter, Erika, and Erika's father, Greg Russell.Erika Smith, 9, and her father, Gregory Russell, 47, were killed in 2002 by an intruder in their Silver Spring home. Erika liked sleepovers there because her doting father sometimes let her ride her bike indoors.Seattle attorney Katie Hill, 36, in town for a convention, was shot near Takoma Metro stop.