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Warrant is filed for freed killer

He's charged with bank robbery, unlawful flight

Robert Preece
Robert Preece

A federal fugitive warrant has been filed against a convicted killer who was accidentally released from jail and allegedly went on a crime spree.

Robert Douglas Preece, 43, was charged Monday in federal court with two counts of bank robbery. An unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrant also was filed against him.

Preece was released from jail on Sept. 18 because the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office did not file criminal charges against him in time. Preece initially was arrested Sept. 14 on investigation of a series of robberies and a police chase.

Salt Lake district attorney spokesman Nate Bryan said a court-created list of inmates due to be released for failure to file had the wrong date by Preece's name.

"The failure is, our guy didn't call the courts and confirm what exactly the date was," Bryan said Monday.

Since his accidental release, police have been seeking Preece in connection with a pair of bank robberies in Salt Lake County. Both robberies happened at a First Utah Bank in Holladay on Sept. 6 and Oct. 12, the FBI said Monday.

According to an FBI agent's affidavit filed with the charges, Preece walked into the bank on Oct. 12 and showed two tellers a handgun, demanding money.

"Preece was visibly disappointed and stated, 'There should be more,'" FBI Special Agent Steven Pickens wrote. "Preece then had victim teller number 2 open the bottom drawer, at which time he removed a large amount of cash, including bait money, which set off the alarm. Preece refused to take the dye pack."

In the fugitive warrant, U.S. marshals and West Valley City police said they had evidence Preece likely has left Utah and may be in California.

"We are currently pursuing leads that will lead us to his arrest," FBI Special Agent Juan Becerra told the Deseret Morning News. "He's definitely a danger to the community, and we welcome any and all information we can get."

In 1983, Preece was convicted of stabbing an inmate to death at the Utah State Prison, where he already was doing time for aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. He was released from prison in 1996 after 14 years for manslaughter.

Parole violations brought him in and out of prison, corrections officials said. He was finally discharged from prison in 2006.

In September, police said, Preece robbed a West Valley City Quizno's restaurant, carjacked a vehicle and led police on a chase that ended in a crash. However, days later, Preece was let out because criminal charges were not filed within three days of his arrest.

Court records show the district attorney filed the charges on Sept. 19 — the day after Preece was released.

Bryan said they have reviewed what happened and are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again. The district attorney's office is in better communication with the Salt Lake County Jail about when inmates will be released.

"At the very least we're better coordinated," he said. "It really was kind of one of those really odd things where everybody failed to communicate."