Man released from prison early now faces murder charge - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Man released from prison early now faces murder charge

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
Lester Thomas (Source: West Memphis PD) Lester Thomas (Source: West Memphis PD)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

A man sitting behind bars at the Crittenden County Detention Center should have never been allowed to leave prison, according to West Memphis police.

Lester Thomas is waiting for his first court appearance scheduled for Friday. He's charged with murder after a man was found dead behind a home in West Memphis, Arkansas. However, he has a lengthy criminal history which should have prevented him from ever being on the streets.

"A murderer should not be let out for any reason," Tammy Root said.

Root couldn't believe it when she learned police charged Thomas on Wednesday with first-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of 21-year-old Robert Barrentine.

Thomas pleaded guilty in 2007 to the attempted murder of a woman who was feeding her father-in-law's cat at the Forrest Park Apartments in West Memphis. Investigators said Thomas, who lived at the apartments, crawled through a common attic and was surprised by the woman while he was burglarizing the father in law's apartment.

"'I beat her up and stabbed her twice in the neck.' That's his plea agreement. That's what he says he did when he plead guilty," West Memphis Chief Donald Oakes said. 

Thomas was sentenced to 24 years in prison, but only served six and was released two years ago. 

"I was surprised it was the same man who done this," Root said.

But for Oakes, it was not a surprise.

"Here we are again. While he should still be in prison, we have a young man's family gonna have a funeral because this guy wasn't kept in prison," said Oakes. 

Under Arkansas law, an inmate only has to serve 50 percent on a conviction of attempted murder. Thomas also got time reduced for good behavior.

Investigators said Thomas lived in a house in West Memphis with five other adults and three young children. Robert Barrington was murdered Wednesday inside the house and knew Thomas. 

"We're not exactly sure how well acquainted they were, but they were acquainted," Captain Joe Baker said.

The case is still under investigation and there could be more arrests.

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