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Mississippi AG: Convicted murderer's whereabouts unknown

From Ed Lavandera and Rich Phillips, CNN
updated 5:28 AM EST, Thu January 26, 2012
Mississippi's attorney general offered a reward for help tracking down convicted murderer Joseph Ozment.
Mississippi's attorney general offered a reward for help tracking down convicted murderer Joseph Ozment.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The attorney general says a reward is being offered but doesn't specify an amount
  • Joseph Ozment was released from prison after a pardon from then-Gov. Haley Barbour
  • "I think he's a danger to the community out there," Attorney General Jim Hood says
  • Prosecutors will argue that some of the pardons were invalid, Hood says

Jackson, Mississippi (CNN) -- Mississippi authorities say they don't know where a convicted murderer is, more than two weeks after a pardon from then-Gov. Haley Barbour released him from prison.

The state's attorney general said authorities were offering a reward for help tracking down convicted murderer Joseph Ozment, but he declined to say how much they would pay.

"We have some money available to confidential informants who provide us with information that will lead to the whereabouts of Joseph Ozment," Attorney General Jim Hood said.

Ozment is one of four convicted murderers Barbour pardoned early this month. Ozment did not appear at a court hearing in a case challenging the pardons Monday.

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Hood said officials want to serve him with a document telling him to appear in court.

Ozment is from northwest Mississippi, near Memphis, and was last seen in that area, Hood said.

"I think he's a danger to the community out there," Hood told CNN Wednesday.

As he closed out his second term as governor, Barbour granted "full pardons" -- meaning the convict's record is effectively wiped clean -- to more than 200 people found guilty of a variety of crimes. All four of the convicted murderers he pardoned were serving life sentences and worked as trusties at the governor's mansion.

The move stirred outrage among relatives of the pardoned murderers' victims, among others. Hood has been particularly outspoken, earlier this month calling the pardons "a slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement and (saying) Gov. Barbour should be ashamed."

At a court hearing Monday, an attorney representing the three other convicted murderers who were released argued that the pardons were valid.

But Hood says state prosecutors will argue that they weren't valid because procedural publication requirements for pardons weren't followed.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green ruled Monday that there would be no change in conditions set for the four convicted murderers pardoned earlier this month, at least until a hearing February 3. The four men can remain free but still have to check in with authorities daily, Green said.

Judge allows pardoned murderers to remain free -- for now

Victims have expressed concern about the prisoners' release, Hood said.

"I certainly don't think they would go back and try to harm any of the victims, but the victims will not rest until they know that this man is back behind bars," Hood said.

He asked anyone with information on Ozment's whereabouts to call 1-800-281-4418.

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