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Liz Navratil covers the Pittsburgh and Allegheny County police departments for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The University of Pittsburgh graduate helped to expose allegations that the city’s police chief and others in a bureau diverted money from the department into an off-the-books account for personal use. The police chief was forced to resign and sentenced to prison; the reporting earned accolades from Investigative Reporters & Editors. Navratil also helped to reveal flaws to a police response to a woman’s 911 call the night she was killed.
What follows is a series of stories that Liz Navratil reported while based at the Diederich College of Communication as an O'Brien Fellow during the 2015-16 school year. The stories were published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and, in some cases, other outlets. They examine the ways officials track large probation and parole agencies in the U.S., how they track violators, and the people impacted when they don't do it well. For her reporting, Navratil traveled to Arizona, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Kevin Crowe assisted with data analysis, and Marquette students Henry Greening, Ryan McCarthy, Kelly Meyerhofer and Lily Wellen contributed as research assistants.
Gerald Boyes had been wanted for 15 days before officials suspect he killed his father and father's girlfriend. Antonio Covington was on the run for 230 days before officials suspect he killed a man in North Carolina. Francisco Fernandez had been wanted for 15 days before police suspect he shot his girlfriend's 7-year-old nephew while handling a gun. All three were on the lam from their probation or parole at the time the new, alleged crimes were committed. A Post-Gazette review of data showed that it took officials in 17 of the nation's largest counties an average of 63 days to arrest someone on a probation or parole violation warrant. The consequences can be deadly.
Don Potter reflects on the killings of his mother and de facto stepfather. Officials suspect the two were killed by Gerald Boyes Jr., who had been wanted on a parole violation warrant and had a history of breaking the rules in the past. "There were some serious mistakes," Potter said. Officials with the Florida Department of Corrections, which supervised Boyes, said they followed proper protocol.
Tucson, Arizona – A team of local and federal officials spend their days tracking probation violators and other fugitives. Navratil and Post-Gazette photographer Andrew Rush spend a day following them.
Brook Goode was wanted for nearly three years on probation violation warrants. Most of the time, he didn't even know it. In fact, he was booked into a North Carolina jails multiple times and never sent back to Pennsylvania for processing on his violation warrants. "They didn't want to contact me until it was convenient for them," Goode said. "They're opportunists when they come to that." Navratil and Post-Gazette photographer Andrew Rush traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, to interview Goode at a recording studio where he was working on a rap album.
Navratil and Rush follow Pittsburgh-area officials who would have been responsible for tracking Goode. This piece offers a look at a day with a different team of fugitive hunters.
After the first stories run in the Post-Gazette, a local official asks for more resources to focus on tracking fugitives.
A Pittsburgh-area official said he wants a wider review of probation and parole issues before he'll support requests for additional resources.
An official in Hennepin County, Minnesota, among the most efficient counties in the Post-Gazette review of data, asks for additional resources to track fugitives.
A third Pittsburgh-area council member joins the discussions about providing more resources to track fugitives.
Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen told county council members that he wants money to hire two additional deputies. The sheriff said he hopes hiring additional deputies might reduce some of the overtime in his office. He said afterward that he hopes having additional deputies might also reduce the need to pull deputies from specialized units, such as those that track down fugitives, during vacation periods. Multiple council members also questioned the sheriff about the Post-Gazette series “Missing Fugitives” that began in August.
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