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INDIANAPOLIS — A FOX59 investigation found that more than 40% of those accused of killing people in Indy this year were on pretrial release or serving post-conviction sentences.

For victims, a quarter of those who have been killed this year were either serving sentences outside of jail or prison, or awaiting trial.

As more people are being killed in Indianapolis than any other time in history, we are examining what must change to keep more people alive. Our investigation found 43% of people arrested for 2021 homicides, from January through October, were on pretrial release or post-conviction sentencing.

Felicia Myers’ cousin, Christie Holt, was brutally murdered in July, and her ex-boyfriend is the suspect.

“It’s been very hard,” Myers said. “Christie was like my sister. She was just taken way too soon and it could have been prevented.”

Charged with stabbing a random person, Marcus Garvin was bailed out of jail in January by the Bail Project, after a judge lowered his bond over state objection. Seven months later, he was accused of stabbing Christie to death.

“Oh my god,” Kaitlyn Davidson, Holt’s Best Friend, said. “People have been dying at the hands of these judges. They’re not looking at everything.”

Garvin is one of at least 15 people accused of killing someone while awaiting trial this year. We found four more people were accused of killing while serving their post-conviction sentences. Combined, this makes up 43% of all homicide arrests through October.

“Second chances are great,” Myers said. “But violent offenders, I feel like at the very least they should be in there until their case is concluded.”

Dozens of people were killed this year while out of jail awaiting trial for prior charges or serving their sentences. Our investigation found more than 25% of people killed in homicides were out of jail or prison.

Community members will often tell us the system is broken. We asked Judge Christina Klineman, who serves Criminal Court 17, about this sentiment.

“I think the system is broken to the extent that, I don’t think people are getting what they need upfront,” Klineman said. “I really don’t. I think that we are unwilling as a community to really go in and have hard conversations with people. I think that there needs to be more education when kids are young about choices that we make.”

We asked Klineman generally how judges make decisions about release.

“In every case, we’re going to receive a criminal history, in most cases we’re going to see a pretrial services report, but it’s pretty limited in terms of what you get,” Klineman explained. “Then the lawyers are able to, if you have a full bond review, are able to call witnesses on either side, give us more information to help us aid in that decision. At first blush we have the criminal history, what the probable cause information is and pretrial services report. Again, it really depends on what we’re given.”

IUPUI Criminal Justice Professor Thomas Stucky explains judges would need extensive background information when setting bond or sentencing to know who is likely to kill or be killed after release.

“They are really specific in either an imminent threat to public safety, that’s quantifiable, and those folks do stay locked up,” Stucky said. “Or, someone who’s a serious flight risk.”

Plus, the U.S. Constitution lays out the rights of the accused.

“We have a fifth amendment right to due process,” Klineman explained. “Part of that right is a presumption of innocence.”

Klineman argues society needs more substance abuse programs and better mental health care to impact crime.

“They don’t know how to control the chaos,” Klinemans said. “So, it’s easy for people who have had good family upbringings and good education and never have had to struggle in certain arenas to have an opinion about these folks.”

Norman Ford works at RecycleForce in Indianapolis. He spent 33 years in prison. Ford says without help, more violence is likely.

“If they see all the crime around them, say if you don’t have any kind of leaders in the community, they don’t see that so they kind of emulate what they see around them,” Ford said.

Ford believes the future is bleak for people leaving incarceration without a support system and re-entry services.

“Nobody want to help them so that’s going to lead them to, ‘well I don’t care, I’m going to go ahead and do what I want to do, and hurt people or whatever it takes for me to survive,'” Ford explained.

Judges tell us their goals are geared toward rehabilitation. But, the body count of victims killed while on release, and suspects accused of killing people, show changes are necessary.

“No matter how they got there, we’ve got to try to change that mindset or it’s just going to continue and continue,” Ford said.

The numbers in this report do not include the 2021 juvenile victims and suspects. Because we did not have their birthdates, the juvenile justice system had to deny our request.

We will continue working for this information and will update this data in a future report.