Probation department takes fall for early release of Kirkersville gunman

Emergency personnel arrive to the scene of a shooting outside Pine Kirk nursing home in Kirkersville, Ohio on Friday, May 12, 2017. (Tom Dodge/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)
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A report released Thursday looks at the early release of Thomas Hartless, the man responsible for the murders of three people inside a Kirkersville nursing home.

The report found his early release involved a series of mistakes including following well-established protocols.

Before the shooting rampage inside and outside this Kirkersville Nursing home, the Licking County Municipal Court probation department decided to release Thomas Hartless from jail on April 12. A decision the probation department admits was a mistake.

TIMELINE: New report details gunman's early release before Kirkersville shooting

"It has been uncommon for our court over the past seven years for early releases to be done on those offenders who have had violent backgrounds," said Kevin Saad Director of the Licking County Municipal Probation Department.

The nine-page review of the case found a total of 13 areas of concern. Among them:

  • There wasn't any checks and balances in place regarding the early jail release process.
  • The recommendation to release Hartless was reviewed by the Senior Probation officer but he wasn't supposed to approve it.
  • The weight of an early release should not have solely fell upon the recommendation of the interviewing probation officer as it did in this case.
  • The ISP (intensive support probation officer) chose not to a professional override -- meaning he failed to take into account Mr. Hartless' prior record -- even though there was sufficient information to support an override.

Hartless was an ex-con who also was charged with three domestic violence cases involving his girlfriend. He pleaded guilty in all three cases.

Complicating the matter, his girlfriend withdrew all three civil protection orders against him, despite telling the court she feared he would kill her.

Hartless was allowed to walk out of jail after serving just 20-days of 90-day sentence for domestic violence based on the recommendation of a probation officer who the court now says failed to follow procedures.

Now, in the wake of three murders including Hartless estranged girlfriend, her co-worker and the chief of Kirkersville Police, the probation department is making changes.

Here's what the court plans to change:

  • Administer a lethality risk assessment on all victims of the Licking county municipal court domestic violence cases if the offenders are eligible for early release.
  • All offenders placed under probation supervision with the court for domestic violence would be ordered to complete a domestic violence treatment program and be ordered not possess weapons.
  • Mandatory for all domestic violence offenders placed under supervision by the court to wear a GPS monitoring device in appropriate circumstances.

One of the problems with the case, is that the probation department could not locate Hartless to serve him with probation violation papers because they couldn't find him.

Previous Coverage:

Nowhere in the report does it recommend any termination or suspension of the probation officer involved in his release, but 10TV has learned this investigation is not over.

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