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Paroled murderer behind bars again

– A man freed from prison after serving 25 years for killing a Bloomington woman could return behind bars for eight more years if the Indiana Parole Board finds he violated the conditions of his release by hitchhiking.

Robert Evan Lee had 17 years remaining on his sentence when he was released in September.

On Tuesday, after learning Lee, 57, had attempted to hitch a ride, Parole Board Vice Chairman Randall Gentry issued a warrant for him to be arrested and held without bond until a hearing can determine whether he violated the conditions of his one year on parole.

Lee had been forced to relocate to a South Bend halfway house after being turned away in Bloomington, Indianapolis and Jennings County.

Lee told arresting officers he was helping the motorist with directions, The Herald-Times reported.

Gentry said a hearing before the parole board will be held within 60 days. Lee will have a chance to explain what happened and to either admit the violation or plead not guilty. Gentry would not speculate about what will happen or whether the violation warranted reinstating a portion of his original sentence.

“It is alleged he got into a vehicle with another person to assist them with directions, but that constitutes hitchhiking since he got a ride out of it,” Gentry said.

“I don’t know where he was or where he was going or whose car he got into, but that is immaterial to the alleged violation. I just know he got into a vehicle with someone, and he was not allowed to do that, and he knew it.”

Under state parole guidelines, a released inmate must abide by certain rules while on parole. If found to have violated release provisions, that person might be ordered to serve up to half of the time remaining on a sentence if not given credit for good behavior, or about 8 1/2 years.

Lee’s projected release date without the credit was October 2029, so if the board finds he violated parole, he could end up serving half of the 17 years left on his sentence.

“Each board member can ask questions and each will make a decision based on any number of facts,” Gentry said. “A more serious violation will get a more serious penalty.”

The public’s safety is his foremost concern, Gentry said.

“Until we know all of the facts, we will not know if this was a benign situation or if it was problematic,” Gentry said. “In a case like this, I am going to react and ask questions later. This is not something I will take a risk on.”

St. Joseph County jail records did not indicate whether Lee has an attorney.

Lee was convicted of murder in 1987 after killing and dismembering 31-year-old Ellen Marks of Bloomington the year before. He spent 25 years in prison after receiving two days of credit for each one served.

He also received four years of credit for obtaining an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree while in prison.