Freed by mistake, police say he robbed convenience store
A state corrections system error put an apparent career criminal who should have gone to Merrimack County jail out on the streets, where he allegedly robbed a Concord convenience store clerk at knife point.
James Earl Rand, 44, of Concord was paroled from New Hampshire State Prison in Concord on Friday after serving his minimum sentence for forgery and habitual offender, corrections department spokesman Jeffrey Lyons said Tuesday.
State Adult Parole Board executive assistant John Eckert took full responsibility.
'It was a mistake. I made it. I own it. There is a good procedure in place. I just missed a step,' Eckert said Tuesday.
Eckert said nothing like this has happened before in his 19 1/2 years with the parole board.
'Obviously, I feel about as badly as someone can possibly feel,' he added. 'The thing I'm most thankful for is nobody was hurt.'
Rand's parole plan had him heading to Georgia to serve out his parole through 2014. Not more than 10 minutes had passed when state corrections officials discovered Rand - whose criminal record dates back to the late 1980s - should have been released to Merrimack County House of Correction.
He was to be held pending trial on two counts of receiving stolen property, Lyons said.
'He should have been paroled to the county jail. He should not have been paroled to the street,' Lyons said.
The state prison releases 1,600 to 1,800 inmates a year, Lyons said.
'We've never had something like this happen before,' he added, noting it 'appears to be a communications error.'
Rand is accused of robbing a female clerk at the Cumberland Farms at 102 Manchester St. about 11:45 p.m. Sunday. He forced the 21-year-old clerk at knife point to open the cash register.
Police said he took cash, then demanded the woman give him her car keys.
The clerk called 911 shortly after the robber left the store. Police said they spotted a man matching the robber's description running from the store and arrested him after a brief pursuit.
They said the man gave them the false name of Tony Brown, but he was identified as Rand when he was booked early Monday.
Rand also is a suspect in a robbery at the Walmart at 344 Loudon Road Sunday.
The Cumberland Farms store clerk is the granddaughter of Concord City Councilor Elizabeth Blanchard. Blanchard said her granddaughter counted to 60 after the robber left, then got up off the floor, locked the door and called 911.
She said her granddaughter suspects the robber didn't steal her car and fled on foot because her car has a standard transmission.
Blanchard described her granddaughter as a 'tough cookie' who would like to work in law enforcement.
Rand was arraigned Monday in 6th Circuit Court-District Division in Concord on armed robbery, resisting arrest, attempted motor vehicle theft, false report to law enforcement and false swearing.
He is being held at Merrimack County jail in Boscawen on $60,000 cash bail, Concord Police Lt. Timothy O'Malley said.
Rand began serving concurrent 1 1/2 to three-year state prison sentences on forgery and habitual offender convictions last August, Lyons said. The court suspended a year from his minimum sentence, which made him eligible for regular, discretionary parole after serving his minimum six months, he said.
Rand has been 'in and out of our system since 1989,' Lyons said.
He has served sentences for prior convictions for first-degree assault, forgery, unauthorized use of a vehicle, escape and burglary, Lyons said.