AURORA, Colo. — Rene Lima-Marin’s wife told her two young sons their father had to go to work the night in January when a team of police officers led her husband away in handcuffs.
It had been nearly six years since he left prison, and his family believed he had paid his debt to society.
But Lima-Marin should have stayed behind bars for the rest of his life. A court clerk’s error led to his release in 2008 — 90 years too soon. Colorado authorities did not discover the mistake until January and immediately sent him back to prison to serve the rest of his 98-year sentence for armed robbery.
Lima-Marin’s case comes as other clerical errors have let criminals evade prison time. In Missouri, a judge this week freed a convicted robber who didn’t report to prison — despite trying to do so — for 13 years because of a clerical mistake. A Los Angeles murder suspect who was accidentally freed last year due to a clerk’s error was captured on Thursday.
And in Colorado, an inmate mistakenly released four years early due to such a mistake is suspected of killing the state’s corrections chief at his front door last year. That prompted Governor John Hickenlooper to order an audit of thousands of inmates’ records to ensure they are serving the correct sentences. Lima-Marin wasn’t part of the audit because it focused on other kinds of felonies, Corrections Department spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson said.
Lima-Marin and another man were convicted in 2000 on multiple robbery, kidnapping, and burglary charges in connection with two violent robberies of Aurora video stores when Lima-Marin was 20. In one assault, the pair ordered employees into a back room at gunpoint and another worker to the floor as they demanded money from a safe.
A judge sentenced Lima-Marin to serve back-to-back sentences on eight convictions, for a total of 98 years. But a court clerk mistakenly wrote in his file that the sentences were to run at the same time. Corrections officials depend on that file to determine how much time an inmate should serve.
Lima-Marin was released on parole in 2008 after serving just eight years.
He set about building his life — while, prosecutors say, being fully aware of the clerical error and never notifying authorities.
Lima-Marin, now 35, started selling coupon books door to door, and more recently became skilled at cutting and installing windows. He reconnected with his former girlfriend, Jasmine Lima-Marin, and they married in July in a ceremony that also celebrated his completion of five years of parole. He was active in church and helped coach soccer.
Lima-Marin helped Jasmine raise her 7-year-old son, Justus. They had another boy, Josiah, who is now 4. Lima-Marin was in prison for his birthday party.
‘‘That was his life, raising his kids and being a husband,’’ Jasmine said. ‘‘He definitely was not the same person that he was when he went in to prison.’’