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Murder suspect freed from N.M.

5:48 AM, Jul 18, 2013   |    comments
Donald Singer, who grew up in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., was found dead in March by his daughter and son in the garage of his suburban Georgia home. (Photo: Courtesy of the Singer family)
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SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. -- A felon jailed out West and wanted for questioning by Georgia police in the suspicious death of a New York native is a free man - for now - after an apparent interstate snafu led to his release, authorities said.

The oversight allowed Robert Craig Sandman to walk out of jail about two months ago after he was arrested in New Mexico after a cross-country joyride in a stolen 1988 Porsche belonging to the dead man, Donald Singer.

Police in Duluth, Ga., said they were waiting for Sandman - who boasts a lengthy rap sheet and was released from a Georgia prison shortly before Singer's death there - to be extradited, but that never happened.

Instead, Sandman, 52, was freed about May 13 after being held for about 20 days after arraignment, as required in extradition proceedings in New Mexico, police said. No one from Georgia came to claim the wanted man, prompting his public defender to file for his release. Duluth police said they were never notified Sandman was ready for transfer and discovered last week he had been on the lam since May.

Now authorities in both states say they don't know where he is, and Singer's family is criticizing law enforcement for failing to transfer Sandman.

"Our one piece of comfort was knowing this man was in jail and not going anywhere," said Singer's daughter, Jessica Black, 30, who was raised in Westchester County, N.Y., and now lives in Georgia. "Both departments dropped the ball but this happened in Duluth. Our family put our faith in them. ... Now we're back at square one with so many unanswered questions."

Black and her younger brother discovered their father's lifeless body in late-March, wrapped in blankets and hidden in his Duluth home. His face was covered in blood and a ladder was placed on top of him, police said. There also were signs of forced entry, and the smell of bleach permeated the garage.

Family members had waited anxiously for days for signs of the 57-year-old father of three, who wasn't picking up his phone. They assumed he went for a ride in his treasured red Porsche, but that changed when they searched the garage.

Singer, who grew up in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., moved to Duluth in 1996 to continue working for General Motors.

Nearly four months after his death, Duluth police still can't classify Singer's case as a homicide because the medical examiner could not determine the cause of death, said Maj. Donald Woodruff, of the Duluth Police Department's Office of Professional Standards.

Woodruff said the botched extradition possibly stemmed from New Mexico's failure to contact the Gwinnett County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department, which handles extraditions for its municipal police departments, including Duluth. It's possible a notification from New Mexico went to the Georgia Probation office, he said, and it was not relayed to the correct department.

"We're not here to point fingers at anyone," Woodruff said by phone from Georgia. "In any event, what should have happened did not happen. We certainly understand his family members being upset, but we're working with police in New Mexico to catch this guy."

The 13th District Attorney's Office in New Mexico, which police said handled the extradition case, did not respond to requests for comment.

According to published reports, Sandman served nine years in prison after pleading guilty to the 1992 murder of his wife in New Mexico. Now he's wanted on arrest warrants related to the theft of Singer's Porsche and a probation violation.



Greg Shillinglaw, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News

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