DENVER (AP) — Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday announced an audit to ensure the state’s prisoners are serving their correct sentences, two weeks after a parolee who was mistakenly released four years early was identified as a suspect in the killing of Colorado’s prisons chief.
The announcement came as authorities said they were looking for two other members of Evan Ebel’s white supremacist prison gang. Authorities said the two men were not suspects but “persons of interest” in Tom Clements’ death. Investigators are trying to determine whether Clements’ killing was an isolated attack or done at the direction of top members of the 211 Crew.
Amid that backdrop, state officials announced the audit and a review of state parole procedures by the National Institute of Corrections. Ebel had slipped his ankle bracelet five days before the Clements killing, but authorities did not issue a warrant for his arrest on parole violations until the following day.
During that time, police believe Ebel also was involved in the slaying of a pizza deliveryman and father of three in Denver.
Ebel was sentenced to a combined eight years in prison for a series of assault and menacing convictions in 2005. He was convicted of assaulting a prison guard in 2008 but a clerical error led his new four-year sentence to be recorded as running simultaneously to his others, rather than to start after they finished. As a result, he was released Jan. 28.
“The Department of Corrections will prioritize the review of cases with the greatest level of risk, going back 10 years, and reviewing the required consecutive sentencing,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “The Department of Corrections will work with the attorney general’s office on any issues that may need further action.”
Meanwhile, the announcement Wednesday night that authorities are looking for two other 211 gang members was the first official indication of a possible tie to the gang.
James Lohr, 47, and Thomas Guolee, 31, aren’t being called suspects in Clements’ killing, but are considered persons of interest. Their names surfaced during the investigation, El Paso County sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Kramer said. He wouldn’t elaborate.
Authorities say the two Colorado Springs men are members of the 211 gang and have been associated with Ebel in the past.
Both are wanted on warrants unrelated to Clements’ death, and authorities believe they are armed and dangerous.
Ebel is the only suspect that investigators have named in Clements’ killing, but they haven’t given a motive. They have said they’re looking into his connection to the gang he joined while in prison, and whether that was connected to the attack.
“Investigators are looking at a lot of different possibilities. We are not stepping out and saying it’s a hit or it’s not a hit. We’re looking at all possible motives,” Kramer said Wednesday.
Investigators have said the gun Ebel used in the Texas shootout was also used to kill Clements when the prisons chief answered the front door of his Monument home.
Sheriff’s investigators said they don’t know the whereabouts of Lohr and Guolee or if they are together, but it’s possible one or both of them could be headed to Nevada or Texas, Kramer said.
The 211 gang is one of the most vicious white supremacist groups operating in U.S. prisons, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups. It was founded in 1995 to protect white prisoners from attacks and operates only in Colorado, according to the center.
Guolee is a parolee who served time for intimidating a witness and giving a pawnbroker false information, among other charges, court records show. State corrections records show he served time for offenses in El Paso County before being paroled in southeastern Colorado.
His father, Phil Guolee of Wisconsin told The Denver Post that his son had been in prison since he was 18, is bipolar and wasn’t able to have his medication in prison.
“He couldn’t get any help, he couldn’t get a good lawyer, couldn’t get anything for him in Colorado,” he said.
Lohr was being sought on warrants out of Las Animas County for a bail violation and a violation of a protection order, according to court records.
He was arrested in Trinidad on Dec. 1, 2012, while hanging out with some friends at a tattoo shop because police said he was drinking in violation of the protection order. The name of the person being protected by the order was redacted from the documents. The court issued a warrant for his arrest after her failed to appear in that case on Feb. 20.
Ebel joined the 211 Crew after he entered prison in 2005 for a string of assault and menacing charges that combined for an eight-year sentence. He was supposed to spend an extra four years in prison for punching a prison officer in the face in 2006, but a clerical error led that sentence to be recorded as one to be served simultaneously with his previous sentences.
He was released on parole Jan. 28.
Records show that the vendor operating the electronic monitoring bracelet that Ebel wore noted a “tamper alert” March 14. Corrections officials left a message for Ebel telling him to report in two days and have the bracelet repaired, records show.
The next day, for the first time since his release, Ebel did not call in for his daily phone check-in.
On March 16, he missed his appointment to repair the bracelet. Only on the following day do the records show that a note was made in the corrections system that he failed to show up.
By then, Leon, a father of three, was shot and killed after answering a call for a pizza at a Denver truck stop.
On March 18, parole officers contacted Ebel’s father, who said he was concerned his son had fled and gave them permission to search Ebel’s apartment. The next afternoon, two parole officers concluded he had fled.
Hours later, Clements answered his doorbell and was fatally shot.
The next morning, still unaware of a connection with the most recent slaying, the state issued a warrant for Ebel’s arrest on parole violations.
A sheriff’s deputy in rural Texas pulled Ebel over March 21, but he fled. Ebel was killed in the shootout that followed.
Clements, born in St. Louis, worked for 31 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, both in prison and as a parole officer, before he joined the Colorado Department of Corrections in 2011.
Associated Press writers P. Solomon Banda and Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this report.