Accidentally released killer, back in prison, visited family around Chicago while free
BY TINA SFONDELES AND BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporters February 2, 2013 10:44AM
Steven L. Robbins, who was apprehended late Friday night in Kankakee by Cook County Sheriff's Police. | Cook County Sheriff's Office photo
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:48AM
A convicted killer who spent 52 hours as a free man after being mistakenly released from the Cook County Jail spent the time before his re-arrest visiting 11 of his siblings and several cousins around Chicago and the suburbs, authorities said Saturday.
They said Steven Lamont Robbins also donned a wig to go grocery shopping, and was sipping Seagram’s VO whiskey and watching TV before he was picked up Friday night at a house in Kankakee.
On Saturday, Robbins, 44, who was released Wednesday, was back in custody at the Indiana prison where he is serving a 60-year sentence for murder in the 2002 killing of Rutland Melton in Indianapolis.
Melton’s mother said the past few days have been traumatic. Her son was killed on Mother’s Day 2002 trying to break up a fight between Robbins and the killer’s then-wife.
“It’s like going through this whole thing all over again,” Maye Melton, who lives in Kentucky, said Saturday. “I haven’t slept in two nights. I didn’t know where he was. I just wanted him caught. My child is, I hope, resting in peace, and he was out loose. It really got to me.”
Robbins — surrounded by 13 sheriff’s deputies — appeared at the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California on Saturday before being returned to Indiana and prison.
“Is this the case I read about in the papers?” Judge Edward Harmening asked.
An escape charge against Robbins was dropped. Assistant public defender Todd Chatman told the judge that Robbins had “no intention to attempt to flee.”
After the hearing, Chatman said Robbins wasn’t at fault for walking away. “He was released by the state, by Cook County,” Chatman said. “They said, ‘Bye.’ . . . What are you going to do? You’ve been in prison for 11 years. Are you just going to say, ‘Wait a minute, let me back in?’ He thought he was being shuffled to a van to Indiana, and next thing he knew, as he was getting through the process of getting in to the van . . . it’s out the door.”
Robbins went straight from the jail to see family and friends, authorities said.
Searching for him, the Cook County sheriff’s police went to “a good number of houses, some that we hit were just an hour before he had left, or five hours before he had left,” sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki said. “His family was moving around.”
The woman whose home in Kankakee was raided Friday night didn’t know Robbins, according to Bilecki. “A relative of his had called her and said, ‘I got a friend that got into a fight. Some people want to hurt him . . . . Can we put him in your house for a couple of days?’ ” said Bilecki.
He said Sheriff Tom Dart was at the raid and comforted her children, ages 3 and 5, who were frightened by the arrest.
Dart had said Friday that a paperwork bungle led to Robbins’ accidental release and accepted the blame.
Robbins was picked up from Indiana by sheriff’s personnel Tuesday and brought to the Markham courthouse on a warrant stemming from 1992 charges of armed violence and possession of drugs. A judge sent Robbins to 26th and California, where a judge noted Wednesday that the charges connected with the warrant had been dismissed, and Robbins was released, according to Dart, because sheriff’s employees said they never received the paperwork saying Robbins should be returned to prison. That paperwork apparently remained in Markham.
Maye Melton is just glad her son’s killer is back behind bars.
“I understand it was mistake . . . everybody is human, and I understand that,” she said. “I am relieved he’s caught.”