When Sarah Smith was arrested twice in late August for identity theft and fraud charges, by all accounts she should have been in jail for a while.
After all, the 14 counts of identity theft shes charged with are classified as felonies, among a slew of other charges.
But Smith who police believe used false identities and stolen checks to obtain Vicodin prescriptions was released anyway.
And five days later, she was accused of conspiring with Adrian Konecny, 24, to rob and murder Robert Olsen, 56, a former victim of Smiths. Thursday, Smith and Konecny were both arraigned for attempted aggravated murder, robbery, burglary and assault, as well as other crimes.
Olsen was beaten severely with a baseball bat just after 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning in his home after a man kicked in the back door and attacked him. The robber got away with cash. Olsen, who police say is related to Smith, suffered head and rib injuries and walked to the hospital to seek treatment. Astoria Police were notified.
A short time later, while police took down a detailed description of the attacker, a Clatsop County Sheriffs deputy saw a Jeep in the middle of Lewis and Clark Road facing the wrong direction. Konecny matched Olsens description to a T, said Astoria Deputy Police Chief Brad Johnston. Konecny was in the company of Smith.
Both were arrested and charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, second-degree assault. The charge of attempted aggravated murder was added as the investigation progressed as well as conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. Konecny was charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine. Smith was charged with a probation violation at the time of her arrest. She is on probation in the Portland area for similar identity theft crimes.
Thursday, Clatsop County Circuit Court Judge Phil Nelson set security on each of them at $500,000. Both are excluded from the matrix a grading scale to determine who is released if the jail is full.
But why was Smith released? Her Jeep, seen on Lewis and Clark Road Wednesday, still had evidence tape on it from the last time it was seized by police.
While this pair has not been convicted, there have been similar, high-profile cases of criminals released from the Clatsop County Jail for overcrowding who have committed more serious crimes.
Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said they highlight the system problem.
Everyone wants to know who is responsible, who released these individuals, like Mark Beebout, Bruce Rogers, the fellow who broke into the same house three times. They ask me to name the judges, name someone responsible, and I could do that, but I dont see that as terribly productive, Marquis said. Theyre looking for someone to blame, but the blame is on the system, its a system problem. This is a system problem and we need a bigger jail.
At least three serious cases have offered the equivalent of the poster child for the new jail campaign.
Mark Beebout was released from the Clatsop County Jail in May 2012 for overcrowding, one week after voters turned down a proposal to expand the jail. He went on to murder two women in Portland and is serving a life sentence.
Bruce Rogers was released from the Clatsop County Jail in April 2013 after attacking his estranged wife and holding her against her will in his home, assaulting and strangling her. He was released after four days, despite attempts to keep him off the matrix system. He broke into her Warrenton apartment, hid for several hours, then confronted the family, claiming he had a gun. When his estranged wife called police, he barged into the room she was hiding in with her two daughters. She shot and killed him.
Tony Tischer, 25, of Hammond, broke into an unoccupied neighbors home twice last spring, released quickly each time from the jail by the matrix. He returned to the home in mid-March, only to be caught by the resident, who shot Tischer with a shotgun. Tischer is still recovering from his wounds.
Weve had all of these incidents, and a lot of others that were not spectacular, as in no one got shot, but its just getting worse and I have no doubt that it will keep getting worse, Marquis said.
Marquis said he also believes Clatsop County needs an inmate release officer, something he hopes to propose in the next budget cycle. A release officer would ask all of the right questions to determine whether a person is likely to reoffend, has a drug addiction, or other issues, he said. Marquis serves in a similar capacity attending the arraignments, but said he is not always able to exclude people from the matrix.
Requesting no bail in theory would mean that person would not get out of jail, Marquis explained, but with jail overcrowding that is not always the case. Smith was not to be released on bail the second time, but was matrixed out anyway.
I think the sheriff hit the nail on the head when he said this would happen, jail Lt. Paul Tesi said, referring to Tom Bergins prior statements on the issue. There is a lack of beds and a lack of space, and these are the things that are going to happen when we dont have space inside the facility. Its sad to say, but weve been harping on the need for more space for a while now and it seems to be catching up to us, unfortunately.
Clatsop County rents space from Tillamooks jail to help prevent some of the in-custody accused criminals from getting out before their time is served, Tesi said. That space in the neighboring county was recently upped from 10 beds to 18. But it still isnt enough, Tesi said. And Clatsop County has roughly 1,000 warrants out for criminals who cant serve time because of the lack of space.
Were seeing some of the counties who maybe had one matrix release last year, with over 300 this year. Its budget cuts, a lack of funding, a lot of mental health issues that the state is pushing down to the local levels. And its tough, Tesi said.
Tillamook can serve as a good role model for Clatsop County if the voters choose to expand the jail. If Clatsop County expanded next week, the jail would still be filled because there is so much catch up work to be done, Tesi said. Thats what happened in Tillamook, but now its judicial system has caught up and the jail is able to generate revenue by renting out the space.
They arent seeing the repetitious crimes because if a person commits a crime, theyll be in jail for the crime and theyll be held accountable, Tesi said. But here, theres no accountability for most of it and if you can get away with it, then why not? Here, we see someone commit a crime on Monday, we release them on Tuesday, they commit another crime on Wednesday, we release them on Thursday, and they are rearrested on Friday.
So instead of just one case to adjudicate, we now have three and that has a huge trickle-down effect on the courts, the DAs office, the jail, the cost, and really the community, because these people are out there victimizing more people.
If there is no accountability, Tesi added, then there is no deterrent.
Smith was released for overcrowding Aug. 30. Konecny has prior felony convictions from September 2012 related to robbery in Texas. He is also on probation for those crimes.