FORSYTH, Ga. — A search is underway after a convicted rapist, in prison for life for attacking a pre-teen girl repeatedly, was released "in error" from Rogers State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Tony Maycon Munoz-Mendez was set free at around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. His release was made public Monday.
Munoz-Mendez is serving life after being convicted of rape and aggravated child molestation in Gwinnett County. The crimes took place in 2010 and 2012, but he had also been previously arrested in 2008 and 2011 for DUI and failure to appear. Munoz-Mendez began serving a life sentence in April 2015, according to Department of Corrections records.
"All resources are being utilized to ensure the rapid apprehension of Munoz-Mendez, including the Georgia Department of Corrections Fugitive Unit and US Marshals," the Department of Corrections said in a news release from its offices in Forsyth, Georgia.
It's not yet clear exactly how or why he was released.
A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Corrections wrote in an email, "Our review of the circumstances surrounding this [inmate] release is ongoing, to include a full internal investigation.”
11Alive asked the department why it was delayed in announcing the news of the inmate's accidental release. The department only responded to say that it is reviewing the circumstances of what happened.
"The priority of the GDC is apprehending the offender as quickly as possible, and at this time, we have all resources focused on the search. As soon as the error was discovered, the GDC immediately put those resources into place," the department added.
The Gwinnett County prosecutor on the rape case, John Warr, told 11Alive News on Monday that he is dumbfounded by the release, and angry - remembering the child's case vividly.
"This one was especially bad,” Warr said.
According to Warr, Munoz-Mendez had been living with the pre-teen girl and her family because he was her mother’s live-in boyfriend. Warr said that in 2010, when the girl was about 10, Munoz-Mendez began to molest her, and then he raped her repeatedly.
"It spanned several years,” Warr said, even though the girl told her mother to make him stop.
Warr said investigators concluded that the strongest evidence that they had supported prosecuting Munoz-Mendez on two of the rapes - both of the counts carrying life sentences - plus charging him with other sexual assault charges.
"Her mother failed to report that to the police, or take any measures to keep her daughter safe from this person in the home."
Warr said the mother, at first, said she believed her boyfriend's denials instead of her daughter's complaints. She changed her story after she was charged in the case, pleading guilty to Child Cruelty in the Second Degree, for failing to intervene to save her daughter.
Munoz-Mendez continued to insist, through his trial, that he had done nothing wrong. A jury ultimately convicted Munoz-Mendez of two counts of rape in 2015. The judge sentenced him to life.
When he was released on Friday by mistake, he had served four and a half years of his life sentence.
And Warr says no one from the state notified him, or the girl - now in her teens - or her foster mother, that Munoz-Mendez is out and on the run. Warr wants not only to see Munoz-Mendez captured, he wants to see an overhaul of security at the prison.
“They need to re-think how they’re handling their security, and how they let people out by mistake. It’s incomprehensible.”
Georgia’s Department of Corrections is asking for the public's help in catching Munoz-Mendez, and warning people - if you see him, don’t approach him, but call 911.
Munoz-Mendez was born in 1988. He's described as 5'9" and weighs around 186 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes.
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