Accused rape suspect who was accidentally released now in custody in Arkansas

(Source: Chatham County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Chatham County Sheriff's Office)

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - An accused rape suspect who was accidentally released from the Chatham County Sheriff's Office is back in custody.

Twenty-year-old Jose Maria Perez was taken into custody in Mena, Arkansas around 3:20 p.m. Friday.

Local authorities in Mena received information that Perez had escaped custody and was wanted in Georgia. After confirming that CCSO had outstanding charges, they acted on the information.

Investigators say Perez fled out of the rear of a home into a wooded area and was later found in a car. He was eventually apprehended and taken to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. He will stay there until he clears extradition and eventually returned to Chatham County.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook saying that 30-year-old Marco Ruiz from DeQueen, Arkansas was driving the car. He was also arrested. The relation between the two is unknown at this time, but we're working to find out more.

Sheriff Wilcher says catching Perez would not have been possible without help.

"We're grateful for the Polk County Sheriff's Office and Arkansas Fish and Game in the effort to get him and put him in custody," Sheriff Wilcher said.

In the span of four days, Perez made his way across several states to get to Mena, which sits right on the border before entering Oklahoma.

The sheriff takes full ownership of the mistake. He says he believes guards confused his name with an inmate with a similar name. Sheriff Wilcher says there is a checklist they're supposed to follow when releasing inmates.

"We have a process in place where you check their name, date of birth, social security, height, weight, their last known emergency contact. Also, they wear a bracelet, if you'll remember, that has a DIN number. They should have checked that DIN number to correspond with that bond," the sheriff said.

The guards who didn't follow this process have been suspended for one week without pay.

The Chatham County Sheriff's Office is working through some legal processes to see when they can pick Perez up and bring him back.

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