Miscommunication allowed rape suspect to be released from jail

Miscommunication allowed rape suspect to be released from jail
Once Greene County found out where Fraser was, McLeod said his department sent a fax to Perry County requesting a hold on Fraser. (Photo source: WDAM)
Once Greene County found out where Fraser was, McLeod said his department sent a fax to Perry County requesting a hold on Fraser. (Photo source: WDAM)

PERRY COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - "It upsets me in the worst kind of way, to know that if just a few people had done their job, this wouldn't have ever happened to me," said Britni Cole.

What happened to Cole happened July 10, 2018. According to a police report, she was assaulted and raped by a man named Journey Fraser, who was staying at an inn in Richton, which she and her husband manage.

"As I physically seem to heal, the worse I seem to get mentally as far as flashbacks," said Cole.

Cole's isn't the only rape Fraser is accused of. According to another police report, Fraser raped a woman two months earlier in Richton on May 14. The alleged crime happened not far from the inn.

That landed Fraser in the Perry County Jail. He was booked the same day and then given a $60,000 bond. Eight days later, while sitting in jail, Fraser missed a court date about 30 miles away in neighboring Greene County, where court documents show he's from.

Greene County Sheriff Stanley McLeod said Fraser is no stranger to his department.

"There is a bench warrant for his arrest because he was supposed to come back to court," said McLeod.

Searching through court records, we found that bench warrant. It was issued May 22, 2018. That was the day Fraser was supposed to be in a Greene County courtroom after being indicted on a drug charge. He didn't show up because he was in the Perry County Jail on that first rape charge.

Once Greene County found out where Fraser was, McLeod said his department sent a fax to Perry County requesting a hold on Fraser. According to the fax, it was sent May 24, 2018, two days after the bench warrant was issued. The document was even marked as urgent. The problem is, Perry County Sheriff Mitch Nobles said his department never got that fax.

When we asked Nobles what he thought happened, he said he wasn't sure.

"They're saying they faxed the information over to us, but it never came through on our end of it. We never received a fax, a copy of the warrant or the fax cover sheet," said Nobles.

On July 10, a month and a half after that hold was requested, Fraser was released.

"I wasn't aware he had been turned a loose," said McLeod. "Since he was in jail, I just left him over there because I didn't think he was going anywhere else."

McLeod said he didn't think Fraser would be able to get the money to bond out, but he didn't need to. New rules of criminal procedure in Mississippi, which went into effect last summer, allow a court to release someone without paying a dime, so long as they promise to show up for court and don't get in any more trouble.

With those rules in place, no indictment,and a breakdown in communication between two counties, a Perry County judge allowed Fraser's release.

Nobles said if he knew there was a hold, Fraser would not have walked out of jail that day.

"He would not have, and he would have went straight to Greene County," said Nobles.

Instead, on July 10, just hours after he was released, authorities believe Fraser went straight back to the inn in Richton. According to that police report, that's when Cole was assaulted and raped.

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We showed those court documents to Cole and the fax that never went through.

"The things that I've lost and the problems that I'm going to have for the rest of my life, this would have made the difference right here. It's hard to believe they didn't receive it," said Cole.

Outside of that one fax, neither sheriff recalls any other form of communication about that hold on Fraser between their agencies. When we asked the sheriffs if they thought there should be more communication than just a fax between their departments, they responded differently.

"There needs to be more communication as far as, you know, pick up the phone, calling to make sure a hold is placed on them," said Nobles.

"It's pretty good right now, but like I say, I'm not sure exactly what happened," said McLeod.

When asked whether the system failed Cole, McLeod didn't have a firm answer.

"Well, it's a possibility, but right now I can't say that because I'm not sure," said McLeod.

For Cole, she says it's not so much a possibility, but a reality.

"This should have never happened," said Cole. "I've got to live my life, learn to live my life in a totally different way than what I was before."

On Monday, Fraser went before a Greene County judge who dismissed that drug charge because of the charges he faces in Perry County. Those charges are residential burglary, aggravated assault and two counts of rape. So far, Fraser has not been indicted on any charges. That all must be decided by a grand jury.