A Utah man recently released from a halfway house early over concerns of a COVID-19 spread forcibly broke into a woman's home and attempted to rob her at knifepoint, threatening to kill her if she didn't cooperate, police said.
According to the arrest affidavit, Joshua Haskell, 42, committed the alleged crime only days after being released from Utah State Prison, where he was incarcerated for violating parole. He had been sent to a halfway house as a part of the Parole Violation Program but "due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, he was suddenly released" on March 17, two days before the break-in.
Police also reported that Haskell has a lengthy criminal history that includes at least four previous drug-related convictions. At the time of his arrest, Haskell reportedly also had an active warrant out for his arrest for misdemeanor theft.
What are the details?
According to police, Haskell "forcibly entered [the woman's] home ... [and] using a large, serrated knife, he threatened the homeowner and tied her up with shoelaces."
Haskell entered the home while the woman was sleeping, and she told police that she woke to the noise from him climbing the stairs. Before she could react, Haskell was in her room holding a knife "raised toward his head with the knife pointing down."
"The victim began screaming and yelling, at which point the male told her to be quiet or he was going to cut her head off," according to the affidavit.
Haskell then tied her up and demanded that she give him her car, cash, bank cards, and PIN numbers, allegedly threatening to return and kill her if she gave him the wrong numbers.
The woman's son, who was also in the house, heard her screams and called 911. When officers arrived, Haskell got into bed with the woman and ordered her to tell them that he was her "lover." But when he adjusted the sheets, she "ran downstairs to officers in a panicked and horrified manner," police wrote.
Officers then arrested Haskell at gunpoint. In court on Monday, he was officially charged with the first-degree felonies aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery and third-degree felonies aggravated kidnapping, possession of a weapon by a restricted person, and drug possession.
Why does it matter?
After warnings from experts that COVID-19 could "wreak havoc" on the prisons in the United States, several states and counties have been implementing early release strategies to prevent the spread of the disease.
Critics of the jailbreak have argued that releasing criminals back onto the streets during the pandemic will not make communities safer but will put the public more at risk — especially as law enforcement simultaneously loosens its grip.