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I-Team: Accused Killer Back Behind Bars After Clerical Error

By Joe Shorsleeve, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – Jean Torres Vargas is the accused murderer who walked out of the Nashua Street jail after a mistake by the Suffolk County Clerk’s office. After one month on the run, the 31-year-old Chelsea man with a long criminal record was finally re-arrested Sunday.

In Suffolk Superior Court Monday, he was charged with killing 47-year-old Michael Costa of East Boston all because Costa had accused him of stealing a TV.

vargas I Team: Accused Killer Back Behind Bars After Clerical Error

Accused killer Jean Torres Vargas.

Prosecutor Julie Higgins told the magistrate Vargas proceeded to stomp on Mr. Costa, in the head the groin and legs.

Walter Pina is Michael Costa’s brother. He knew Vargas was only being held on assault but did not know the clerk’s office failed to properly add the murder charge when his brother died.

“They need to pay attention to their job because this is a dangerous situation,” says Pina. “He could have hurt the witnesses.”

The mistake by the Suffolk County Clerk’s office, run by Maura Hennigan, followed an I-Team investigation which documented Hennigan spending hours walking her dog, as well as using court employees to work on her campaign for which she was fined.

According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, the mistake came down to a hyphen. When his last name, Torres Vargas, was entered into the system, it was entered with a hyphen. But there is no hyphen in his name, so when officials at the Nashua Street Jail were releasing him and they did an outstanding warrant check, in this case a murder warrant, they did not find one.

Magistrate Gary Wilson told court room, “We will be working with the people who structure the warrant management system to make sure we do not have a situation like this again. It was clearly an unfortunate situation.”

The magistrate promised changes and he ordered Vargas held without bail. He will be back in court next month.

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