DENVER (KDVR) — Several high-profile murder cases are shedding light on a problem some experts believe is behind the recent crime surge. Some repeat, violent criminals are being let out of jail on personal recognizance bonds, only to commit more crimes.
Law enforcement officials call the suspect in the murder of a 77-year-old Cheesman Park resident a career criminal who should not have been let out on a PR bond.
The circumstances of Brian Murray’s release from jail have outraged people in the victim’s neighborhood and in the law enforcement community. They say Stu Hoebel’s death could have been prevented.
‘Incomprehensible’ that suspect was free
“It’s heartbreaking,” said neighbor Kevin Slepicka, who said he had known Hoebel and his family for the past eight years. He said Hoebel was a beloved member of the Cheesman Park neighborhood.
“He went above and beyond in every sense of the term,” Slepicka said.
Neighbors were relieved to hear the news of Murray’s arrest, but they were shocked and outraged to hear that the 40-year-old was released on a PR bond the day before Hoebel was killed.
“It makes me sick. With the charges leveled against him, being let out on a PR bond is incomprehensible in my opinion,” Slepicka said.
Murray was arrested Nov. 16 in Louisville after making threats to kill people, including law enforcement officers. He is also accused of being a felon in possession of a gun.
On Nov. 17, a Boulder judge released him on a PR bond, meaning he didn’t have to post any cash and promised to show up in court.
The Boulder District Attorney’s Office objected to the PR bond. The arrest affidavit outlines his lengthy criminal history, including threats, assault and burglary, among other felonies.
Murray is accused of killing Hoebel in his Cheesman Park home the next day. The motive remains unclear.
Denver Police sergeant responds
“The initial thought is it is alarming, but not surprising,” Denver Police Sgt. John Bronson said.
“With PR bonds what we are seeing is more and more people offending, quicker and quicker, as far as timelines go,” Bronson said. “We had a case where a guy was arrested and jailed three times in a matter of about 18 hours, so less than a day. The first offense, he spent five hours in jail, got a PR bond. He got out, immediately reoffended. He spent three hours in jail. Got out again. Was caught burglarizing a woman’s home while she was at the home and was arrested again.”
“The fact that our system has gotten to this point where an innocent man in the twilight of his life is murdered by someone that should have been in jail, I don’t know what that says about our society,” Bronson said. “It’s awful sad that the criminal justice system failed this man and his family, and to know he would be alive today had the criminal justice system would have kept this suspect in jail.”
Bronson said PR bonds or extremely low bonds are becoming more and more common for serious offenses. He believes the public needs to put pressure on elected officials.
“I think it has to start at the legislative level or the judges. I would hope that people want their safe community back. And I would hope they would want the judges, the district attorney’s office to do their part in the criminal justice system just like they expect the police to do their part,” Bronson said.
“Nationwide we are seeing crime rise. We are seeing crime rise here, and it can be fixed. It is just a matter of instead of looking at this as a social issue, look at this as holding people accountable for the actions they choose to engage in. I would hope people would eventually say enough is enough. I want a safe community, and if people choose to engage in criminal behavior, then they should be held accountable,” Bronson said.
Hoebel’s neighbors agree something must be done to prevent tragedies like this in the future.
“With what happened here, if that’s a fixed system, what is a broken system? Our system definitely is not working correctly,” Slapicka said.