61-year-old Mobile man charged in 1980 cold case murder of 19-year-old Sandra Williams.
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – A processing mistake that resulted in the accidental release of murder defendant Alvin Ray Allen on Tuesday was not the first time a murder suspect has been freed inadvertently from Mobile County Metro Jail.
A similar incident occurred less than a month ago.
On Wednesday, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office blamed a mistake in reading the paperwork from the Mobile County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office after police had arrested Allen, 61, in connection with a 1980 slaying. Officials said a deputy processing Allen’s $100,000 property bond did not see that $10,000 of that had to cash.
“We are currently reviewing procedures with Corrections Officers who work in Docket, The Circuit Clerks Office and the Circuit Court Office as it relates to District Attorney Grand Jury Indictments,” the statement reads.
Later in the day Wednesday, Allen posted that cash portion and now is free pending trial.
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich on Wednesday focused on the end result of Allen’s re-arrest rather than the mistake that led to his release in the first place.
The snafu comes on the heels of a number of other problems at the under-staffed jail. Last month, jailers mistakenly released Nathaniel Sebastian, who had been arrested on a charge of murdering his mother in 2017. Officials said that Sebastian had made a $100,000 bail and that the jail had no record of a grand jury indictment that had set a $250,000 bail.
Also last month, the Sheriff’s Office acknowledged that a malfunction of the locks allowed federal prisoners at the jail to open their cell doors. The U.S. Marshals Service relocated 36 federal inmates as a result.
And in April of last year, the jail mistakenly released Harold Wallace, a man facing murder charges. The jail allowed him to go free after posting a $150,000 bond, even though the indictment charging him with the 2017 slaying ordered “no bond” in the case. Wallace later surrendered and pleaded guilty to murde, receiving a life prison sentence.
As for Allen, prosecutors allege he killed Sandra Williams, whose body turned up on Sept. 11, 1980, miles away from her apartment on Azalea Road. Police said the woman had been raped and stabbed.
Police on Tuesday surrounded Allen’s home on Cheshire Drive and took him into custody after a standoff.
As for the case, itself, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich told reporters Wednesday that DNA played a role in solving the nearly four-decade-old homicide. She declined to discuss that evidence in detail but suggested that prosecutors have more than DNA, alone.
“Well, he’s always been a suspect, even before we had DNA. … This has been a very long, ongoing investigation, and you know, we’ve finally, hopefully, given this family a little bit of a closure knowing that the person we feel is responsible for the murder of their daughter has been arrested,” she said.
DNA has helped countless prosecutions over the past several decades – and has cleared some wrongly convicted prisoners. The Mobile Police Department has used a $1.9 million grant awarded by the Department of Justice in 2017 to clear a backlog of sexual assault cases.
Rich said the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative did not factor into this case, but she said the grant has spawned dozens of prosecutions.
“That grant has been very successful,” she said. “We are so pleased that we have that grant, because we are now contacting victims in cases that have happened 10, 20, 30 years ago. And we’re being able to provide justice and some type of answers to victims who did not know their attacker, who did not know who their attacker was. … You just see the relief on their face.”