Judge who released Thomas Hartless early speaks about decision

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Judge Michael Higgins addressed the media Friday regarding what happened that allowed Thomas Hartless, the man who murdered his estranged girlfriend, a police chief and a nursing home worker in Kirkersville, to be released from jail early.

“I was physically sick over the whole thing,” said Judge Higgins.

Higgins said he comes in contact with countless defendants and he relies exclusively on the information fed to him by the reports in the cases.

He said the entities involved in the tragedy are reviewing their roles in what happened.

Higgins signed an order to release Hartless from jail early. He made the decision based on a report by the Adult Probation Department.

The department released a report on the Hartless situation, pointing out several steps in the process that weren’t followed properly. The process has been reviewed and changes have been implemented.

The probation officers involved will receive disciplinary action. That is expected to be determined soon.

Higgins does not plan to step down from the bench. He has been a judge since 1991. He has two and a half years left in his term.

He will be over 70-years-old at that point and no longer eligible to run for the position.

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