DENVER (CBS4) — A parolee who was recently released from prison due to coronavirus concerns is now accused of murdering a 21-year-old woman in Denver. Cornelius Haney is accused of murdering Heather Perry less than a month after his release.

Cornelius Haney (credit: Denver Police)

Perry’s body was discovered in an alleyway in east Denver on May 9. Police used surveillance video to track Haney back to the crime scene.

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Haney was released early from his seven year sentence after pleading guilty to armed robbery in Arapahoe County in June of 2016. Though qualified for parole, Haney’s mandatory release date wasn’t scheduled until August of 2020.

In a statement issued to CBS4’s Dillon Thomas, the Department of Corrections said:

“Mr. Haney has been eligible for parole since 2017. His case was reviewed by the Parole Board, and he was approved for release. He was released on 4-15-2020. Mr. Haney had a mandatory release date of 8-22-2020 and would have been required to be released at that time regardless of the Parole Board decision.

“Mr. Haney was released due to special needs parole criteria. When looking at special needs parole criteria, the Department of Corrections’ medical staff reviews offenders for risk factors related to COVID as documented by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The clinical team reviews the inmate’s medical records to individually confirm the existence of conditions and their severity. The Department also reviews information related to their crime of incarceration and behavior inside the facility. Once the medical and parole team has made a recommendation, the packet is forwarded to the Parole Board for review. The Parole Board reviews the application packet and renders a decision.”

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Gov. Jared Polis acknowledged Friday that Haney was released under an executive order he issued, but said the parole board could not have held Haney much longer.

“He would have had mandatory parole granted in August of this year,” Polis stated. “He has been up for parole since 2017.”

Polis said the parole board has a tough job.

“In making those decisions, they are taking into account the safety of prison guards and others, but no prisoner who is a danger to society should be released early in any situation,” Polis stated. “And of course, nobody on that parole board thought that this person was going to do what they allegedly did, but they couldn’t have held them much longer under the law.”

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“They’re doing their best to make the best informed decisions they can to keep Coloradans safe, as they decide within the legal parameters,” Polis stated. “Nobody should be released simply because of COVID-19, of course.”

Dillon Thomas