Could stricter monitoring of work release inmates saved lives? | News
Palm Harbor, Florida - Sonia Perez sits on a bench outside her work and weeps as she talks about her friend Arthur Regula.
"Just a really good person. I feel you don't find a lot of good people anymore and he was one of the great ones," she says.
Arthur Regula was ripped from his family and friends by a criminal with a gun. "Just the way it happened. He was too good for that to happen to him," she says, tears running down her face.
Regula and Bruce Johnson were shot and killed on Sunday inside a Kenwood house they were remodeling and then the place was torched.
Police arrested Michael Scott Norris, a man with a long criminal record. Norris had his first appearance in court on Friday. He was assigned a public defender and held with no bond.
While Perez is thankful there's been an arrest, there's also anger. She thinks her friend could still be alive, if a work release program had tighter controls.
"Burglary and all these other things-why was this guy out on unsupervised work release?" Perez questions.
On the day of the double murder, Norris walked away from the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center. Norris didn't report to his St. Pete job as expected, and hours later Regula and Johnson were dead.
According to the Department of Corrections, the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center is the largest such facility in the state, and it's also had the greatest number of escapes-27 in fiscal year 2011-2012. As far as Perez is concerned, that's way too many.
"It's shocking, it's scary; they just let people out and don't monitor them. Put something on them. Even people on house arrest have a bracelet or something I would suspect," she says.
Perez understands the goal of work release is to give prisoners who are almost done with their sentences a better chance of making it on the outside. But her friend had all his chances cut short.
She says her voice breaking with emotion, "I would definitely hope things would be able to change, now that they obviously see what can happen."