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Inmate surrenders after early release

Published Oct. 10, 2005

Earl Wilson traveled four days to present a singular Valentine's Day gift to his 16-year-old fiancee.

He was the gift: a man honorable enough to turn himself in after a Pasco jail let him go by mistake.

But when he arrived at his destination, his fiance wasn't there.

Despite a five-year-state prison sentence he has yet to serve, Pasco jail officials released Wilson, 21, Tuesday morning on a paperwork error. Wilson turned himself in at a North Florida jail Friday night with an eye to his future, according to his mother-in-law-to-be.

"He wants to serve the sentence, get it behind him," said Mary Ann Roberts, the mother of Wilson's fiancee, Sunday night. "He wants to get out and lead a normal life and start supporting people."

Wilson faces state prison time for violating terms of house arrest, according to Major Doyle Rooks of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. Rooks said Wilson's criminal record includes arrests on charges of resisting arrest with violence and passing a bad check.

Rooks also said his recollection was that Wilson was facing a four-year state prison sentence, rather than the five-year term specified in a Pasco sheriff's report.

Pasco sheriff's officers brought Wilson here Feb. 8 to face two traffic-related charges in Pasco before beginning his state time. The state sentence was noted on the log when Wilson was booked into jail, according to sheriff's records.

But the information never was transmitted to Wilson's inmate file. And papers documenting Wilson's prison term did not arrive from Columbia County in time.

So last Tuesday about 9 a.m., Wilson was released because a judge had dismissed the two Pasco charges against him, according to sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers. Wilson didn't mention his sentence to jailers.

"We don't know whether the snafu was here or in Columbia County," sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said Sunday. Jail officials "still are looking into it," he said.

Wilson walked and hitchhiked on U.S. 41 to his fiancee's home in Lake City, Columbia County, Mrs. Roberts said. He arrived about 7:30 p.m. Friday, Valentine's Day.

"He said they let him go," Mrs. Roberts said. "He was kind of surprised."

Wilson's fiancee, 16-year-old Barbara Ann Samantha Box, was not there. Mrs. Roberts said she couldn't discuss her daughter's whereabouts, or what Wilson's reaction to her absence was. She did say that Wilson made no mention of the fact it was Valentine's Day.

After a dinner of medium-rare ribeye steak and iced tea, and a bath, Wilson was ready to go to jail. Mrs. Roberts, her mother and her husband took him there.

Columbia County jail officials relayed the news to Pasco sheriff's officials, who already had discovered the mistake and had broadcast alerts for Wilson, according to the Pasco report.