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Man released on parole despite life sentence now charged with multiple crimes

Posted at 9:32 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 21:32:26-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A man released from prison by the Virginia Parole Board has since returned to a life of crime, according to police and prosecutors in two different parts of Virginia.

Authorities in New Kent County and Newport News say that in the last four months, Karim Aziz Muhammad has committed nine crimes, including five felonies.

It started April 11th, when deputies say Muhammad robbed Stewart’s Grocery Store in Lanexa. He was arrested three days later, and for a time was locked up at Henrico's Regional Jail East. But he was eventually released on bail.

About two months later, on June 20, police in Newport News say Muhammad committed a series of crimes that endangered the lives of several people, including children.

According to investigators, Muhammad forced his way into a woman's home while wielding a knife, demanding money and personal items. There were children inside at the time.

Police say he then fled the scene and led police on a chase, while his own child was inside the car with him.

It ended, investigators say, when Muhammad crashed into a state trooper's vehicle, then assaulted an officer before being taken into custody. His child was taken to the hospital to be checked for injuries.

The 46-year-old was charged with eight crimes, including abduction by force/intimidation, and assault on law enforcement.

Muhammad was serving a life sentence for robbery and use of a firearm when the parole board granted his release in 2017.

But just one year before, the board denied him parole, citing reasons that included:

  • A history of violence.
  • The serious nature and circumstances of his offenses.
  • And a record of institutional infractions that indicated a disregard for rules and that he was not ready to conform to society.

As CBS 6 was first to report, the Virginia Parole Board is being investigated by the state’s official government watchdog agency – the Office of the State Inspector General – for the way it has handled several cases, most notably that of Vincent Lamont Martin.

Martin had been serving a life sentence for the murder of Richmond Patrolman Michael Connors, who was shot multiple times in the head near the VCU campus in November of 1979.

“It was a flat out execution,” said former Richmond prosecutor Stacy Garrett, who tried the case. “It’s just something you never forget.”

Like Muhammad, Martin had previously been denied parole, for reasons that included an extensive criminal record and a history of violence.

But earlier this year, four out of five members of the parole board voted to set Martin free. That led to criticism from Connors's family, law enforcement, and Richmond’s commonwealth's attorney, who asked the board to reconsider and rescind Martin's release.

Martin’s release was delayed twice, but he was ultimately let out of prison June 10.

“The parole board has sole discretion with respect to parole in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security.

The status of the OSIG probe is unknown, though it is expected to be concluded soon.

"We want to make sure in the future the parole board has a process in place, follows their procedures, and we'll take a look at that when OSIG completes their investigation," said Moran.

Muhammad is currently being held without bond. Given that he was out on parole at the time of his arrest in New Kent, some are wondering why he was later released on bail, prior to his alleged crimes in Newport News.

"He should’ve been back in jail until this first felony was adjudicated, not three months later," said veteran sheriff's deputy Miles Turner, who now runs Law Enforcement Consulting LLC.

CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone says it seems unusual that Muhammad was granted bail after the robbery charge, given his history, but these are unusual times.

​"A charge like robbery is a very serious felony offense, it’s a crime against a person, and normally you’d be held without bond for a charge like that," said Stone. "These days we’ve got COVID in the jails and that sort of thing, so things are a little bit different."

But Stone says Muhammad is unlikely to be released from jail anytime soon.

"I think it would be virtually impossible for him to get a bond now."