NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - He's charged with the murder of Raphael Davis at the Hampton Carnival on May 25, but for a short period of time on Oct. 9, Eric Nixon was mistakenly released from the Newport News City Jail.
WAVY.com’s exclusive interview into the mistaken release delves into how it happened and who's responsible.
"I just need to hold him. You don't know how difficult this is," said Alfreda McCoy, who loves her son so much she would end up taking him back to jail.
Nixon was locked up at the Newport News Juvenile Detention Center for 10 felonies in Hampton, including first degree murder. Nixon was charged in Hampton for the Hampton crimes, but Newport News houses juveniles from Hampton.
While Nixon was there, he got in a fight and was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.
On Sept. 12, Nixon turned 18, and because he was now an adult, Jonathan Robinson, the Hampton Juvenile Intake Supervisor ordered Nixon be sent to the Hampton City Jail.
Following that order, the Hampton Sheriff's Office picked up Nixon from the Newport News Juvenile Detention Center.
"Didn't any alarms go off?" WAVY.com asked Hampton Jail Administrator Major Steven Rich, who is employed by the Hampton Sheriff's Office.
Maj. Rich said he got the request for transfer that listed Nixon's Hampton felonies including first degree murder, but refused to accept him because there wasn't a Commitment Order to lock him up.
"Nixon was delivered to you,” WAVY News’ Andy Fox said to Rich. “You knew about the charges and yet you would not admit him into your jail because you did not have the paperwork?"
"That's right, we needed a Commitment Order, and we didn't have one for Nixon ... this, sir, is only enough to transport him, and not enough to remand him into custody," Rich said, pointing at a Request for Transfer form.
Instead of trying to correct the paperwork problem, Rich's deputies took Nixon to the Newport News Jail with a Commitment Order to be incarcerated for the misdemeanor assault.
On the Commitment Order that the Newport News City Jail saw, it states "charges pending in Hampton criminal," but does not say what type of charges.
Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan thinks Hampton should have kept their prisoner on the felony charges and not passed the buck.
"The felonies trump the misdemeanor,” Morgan said. “Nixon should have been kept in the Hampton jail, yes.”
On Oct. 9, a judge ordered Nixon released on the assault and battery charge. In an exclusive interview, Nixon spoke with WAVY.com over the phone while WAVY News was at his mother's home.
"They told me I was going home,” Nixson said.
Nixon told Newport News deputies he faces a murder charge in Hampton and told them 'don't release me.' Nixon fears retaliation for the murder of Ralphael Davis.
"I said ‘I'm going to Hampton,’ and [Newport News deputies] said ‘no you aren't. You are going home’,” Nixon said.
WAVY.com asked him whether he told the deputies he was suppose to go to Hampton.
"Yes, I told them,” Nixon said.
"He said ‘I'm not supposed to be released,’ so normally bad guys don't tell us ‘we're not supposed to be released’ ... it did raise a red flag, absolutely, absolutely,” said Sheriff Morgan.
With red flags up, Sheriff Morgan ran Nixon's name through a national database that showed no outstanding warrants.
"But we went one step further,” Morgan said. “We reached out to the Hampton Sheriff's Office Record Division."
Sheriff Morgan's own records show the Hampton jail told his office, "No charges in Hampton. No pending per Hampton Records Department."
That would be hard to believe because Rich at the Hampton jail has known for nearly a month Nixon was wanted on the 10 Hampton felonies.
"Our records section, which they noted, closes at 5 p.m. Nixon was released around 6:50 p.m. on Oct. 9. Our office was closed at that time,” Rich said.
According to Newport News records, Newport News called Hampton at 4:16 p.m., 45 minutes before quitting time at the Hampton jail. Maj. Rich ignored that notation saying, "They never called us ... we have no documentation they called."
That may or may not be true, but Newport News does have documentation deputies did call Hampton.
Not only that, Maj. Rich blames Newport News for releasing Nixon even though he knew for nearly a month there was a problem and did nothing about it.
Sheriff Morgan said they had to release Nixon after Hampton told them they had nothing to keep him in custody. Morgan's office told WAVY.com had they known about the felonies, then that would have started another series of questions.
We asked Rich if he was taking any responsibility for the mistake.
"We had no documentation," he said.
WAVY.com pointed out one doesn’t need documentation when you have the law enforcement knowledge that Nixon had been indicted in the Hampton court system on 10 felonies. Maybe the proper thing to do was to call and get the proper paperwork, get everyone on the same page, and keep a suspect wanted for murder in jail.
Nixon also told WAVY.com what happened when he was released.
"They took me down there, gave me my clothes, and I waited a little bit, and I signed out,” he said.
Released from jail, on the street in driving rain with nowhere to turn, Nixon called his mother.
"I said ‘hello,’ and he said 'it's Eric.’ He was all panicky. He says 'Mom, they let me out.' I said ‘what do you mean they let you out.’ I said ‘Eric, stop playing.’ He said, 'Mom they let me out of jail.',” McCoy said.
Family members picked up Eric and brought him to his mother, who would be the one to fix what the legal system broke.
McCoy told him he had to go back to jail because if he didn’t, eventually law enforcement would seek him out and the whole situation would make him look guilty, like he was running when he wasn’t.
After going to the Hampton Magistrate's Office, they were directed to the Hampton Public Safety Building where they found a police officer who told them to come inside. McCoy told the officer, "He's not supposed to be out on bond, but they made a mistake and let him out."
McCoy remembers, "I gave them Eric, and then the officer came back and said, 'O.K. you can leave now, he is under arrest and in the back,' and I cried and said ‘can't I hug him one more time?’" The answer was no, and McCoy left knowing she had done the right thing.
"As hard as it was, I knew it was the right thing to do ... the devil wanted me to keep him, but I knew what was right,” McCoy said.
With plenty of blame to go around, the only thing the Hampton and Newport News sheriffs' offices agree on is who ultimately botched this case. That would be Intake Supervisor Jonathan Robinson and the Hampton Juvenile Intake and Probation Office that failed to produce the necessary paperwork to ensure Nixon remained incarcerated.
WAVY.com went looking for answers at the intake office. Robinson refused to talk on the phone, and WAVY.com was referred to Director Mike Morton, who said he would have a statement. When WAVY.com showed up for the statement, a receptionist said, "Mr. Morton called and said he was in the middle of the meeting and cannot get away at this time."
WAVY.com called Morton from the lobby and told him everyone is blaming his office, Intake Officer Robinson and himself for failing to produce the paperwork that would have kept Nixon incarcerated.
"I am aware of that,” Morton said. “I told you I had to get permission, and I did not get that permission.”
He then hung up the phone.
WAVY.com asked McCoy what she thought about what happened to her son.
"I think they are a bunch of idiots ... they don't know what each other is doing ... someone should have known something ... thank God my son was OK. I know he is innocent, and it was dangerous for him to be on the street," McCoy said.
Camden County Sheriff Tony Perry said that during the last two weeks, incidents of breaking and entering and home or vehicle larceny have increased in two areas of the county.
A Facebook post helped Elizabeth City Police identify and locate the suspect of a hit-and-run incident involving a 3-year-old this week.
As Newport News Fire Chief Scott Liebold plans to retire at the end of this month, the city is looking for his replacement -- and they want your help.