Sheriff's Office: Mistakenly released inmate now back in custody

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Jose Maria Perez (Chatham County Sheriff's Office)

It’s been three days since the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office accidentally released inmate Jose Maria Perez. Perez is facing an extensive list of charges including aggravated assault and rape.

Deputies had no idea where Perez was until he was found Friday afternoon nearly 900 miles away in Mena, Ark.

At approximately 3:20 p.m. local time, deputies in Mena, Ark. brought Perez back into custody.

“We’re grateful for the quick action that Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Arkansas Fish and Game in the effort to get him and put him in custody," Sheriff John Wilcher with the Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer says Perez was arrested after their deputies initiated a traffic stop. Perez is now awaiting extradition back to Chatham County.

The question remains: How did this happen in the first place?

Those answers did not come from CCSO tonight. Friday's press conference was a short 90 seconds of Sheriff John Wilcher reading a prepared press release, opting not to take any questions.

“We’re going to be truthful and upfront with y’all and that’s where we stand at," Wilcher said, as he and other CCSO deputies quickly left the room.

During a press conference earlier this week, Wilcher said that upon Perez’s release, deputies gave Perez the wrong inmate’s property: more than $300, a cell phone and credit cards.

Wilcher says the two officers involved have been suspended for a week without pay.