National News

Former convicted child molester surrenders after mistakenly being released from prison

Posted April 5, 2018 11:47 a.m. EDT

— After roaming free for several days, formerly convicted child molester Paul Serdula turned himself in to the Cobb County Jail Wednesday.

He was mistakenly released from the Wheeler Correctional facility on March 30.

The Cobb County Sheriff's Office put out a warrant out for Serdula's arrest on Wednesday, and the fugitive task force began searching the area for him.

In 2011, Serdula was convicted of child molestation and sodomy of at least 19 patients he'd sedated as their nurse.

He was sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years.

In February, the Georgia Court of Appeals vacated Serdula's convictions after he asked to have his trial judge, Rueben Green, recused from the case. He was denied a recusal hearing, and the trial went on.

Serdula alleged Green and former Cobb County D.A. Patrick Head had a "close association," which in turn allegedly posed a conflict of interest. The Court of Appeals ruled on February 15 that Serdula should be granted a recusal hearing by another judge and his sentence would be vacated.

While waiting for a recusal hearing to be scheduled, Serdula was supposed to be returned to the Cobb County Jail, where he had been prior to his trial.

He did not have bond, however, guards at the Wheeler Correctional Facility set him free instead.

How could this happen?

CBS46 pressed the Department of Corrections for an explanation on Tuesday and Wednesday. Spokespersons for the department declined to go on camera but sent the following statement in part acknowledging the serious error.

"Once the sentence was vacated, Cobb reached out to GDC and made a request to release directly to them. That request was documented. When the individuals at Wheeler CI began running their normal release process on Serdula, they found no detainers and no legal authority to hold him. They did, however, overlook the request that had been made by Cobb."

Officials would not reveal if the guards have been reprimanded.

Serdula will now await a recusal hearing from the Cobb County Jail. The Floyd County District Attorney's office, led by Leigh Patterson, is overseeing the case to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest in the future.