LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - He was wanted in three states for stealing thousands of dollars from his customers. It took police more than a year to track him down. But now, contractor Edward Armstrong is back on the streets after a lack of communication within the Jefferson County court system led to his release.
Armstrong's alleged victims want to know why prosecutors didn't do more to keep him in jail after it took so long to catch him. And now, the Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney's office is scrambling to get him back.
Armstrong was wanted for more than a year on felony theft charges that stretched from northern Ohio to southern Indiana. But after police finally tracked him down, the court system let him go.
That is frustrating to Armstrong's alleged victims like Ralph Coke. "Oh it is, my Lord," Coke said.
The Troubleshooter first interviewed Coke in December 2010. Armstrong disappeared after the Armstrong allegedly stole $12,600 from the Brooks man for a pole barn Armstrong never built. An investigation by the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter department discovered detectives in Bullitt County were not the only ones searching for Armstrong.
He was wanted for allegedly taking more than $15,000 from a family in Harrison County and $16,000 from a man in Jefferson County for work he never did. Arrest warrants were issued in all three cases, but the Indiana man eluded capture until January 2012.
That's when Ohio authorities arrested him on felony theft charges. Police said the same issues had happened there. After his arraignment in Putnam County, OH, Armstrong was extradited to Kentuckiana to face justice.
"I was glad," Coke said.
But Coke isn't so happy anymore. After being booked into the Bullitt County jail, Armstrong was extradited to Jefferson County. But earlier this month, despite a $50,000 bond and a court memo that listed him as a "flight risk," assistant county attorney Becky Schroering agreed to dismiss Armstrong's bond and release him on his own recognizance.
Bill Pattison, spokesperson for the Jefferson County Attorney's office, said Schroering released Armstrong because she thought he would be held in Harrison County while he awaited trial on the theft charge there. But the judge in Harrison County lowered Armstrong's bond from $25,000 to $4,000. Two weeks ago, Armstrong's girlfriend posted the money, and he walked out the front door.
"I don't know where he's at now," Coke said.
In fact, no one does for sure.
Neighbors at Armstrong's last known address said he moved out months ago. On Monday, the Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney's office asked the judge to issue an arrest warrant to bring Armstrong in, noting he is now facing felony theft charges in six counties in three states, including Butler, Gibson and Vandenberg Counties in Indiana.
Judge Barry Willett denied the motion, opting to allow Armstrong the opportunity to show up on his own for his arraignment in Jefferson County on April 2.
Ralph Coke isn't counting on it. "If he's got any sense he will find a hole and pull it in over him," Coke said.
The Harrison County Attorney's office and the Jefferson County Attorney's office declined to speak on camera about this case. But a spokesperson for Harrison County said the prosecutor opposed the motion to reduce bond.
Detectives who worked to catch Armstrong the first time around also declined to speak on camera but said they are frustrated that Armstrong was released. They don't think he's going to show back up on his own.
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