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Pardoned Mississippi murderer found in Wyoming

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:37 PM EST, Mon January 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Mississippi AG Jim Hood slams then-Gov. Haley Barbour
  • Joseph Ozment pleaded guilty to the 1992 murder of Rick Montgomery
  • He was released from prison after a pardon from Barbour
  • Ozment was served with papers at a Laramie, Wyoming, hotel

(CNN) -- A convicted murderer who was pardoned this month in a controversial move by outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, has been found in Wyoming, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced Monday.

Joseph Ozment was served with papers at a hotel in Laramie, Wyoming, where he had been staying under another name, his office said. As he was fleeing in his girlfriend's car, Ozment bumped an officer and sped from the parking lot. He later returned to the hotel on foot, denying he had been behind the wheel, Hood said. The officer was not seriously hurt.

Ozment's whereabouts had been unknown since he was picked up by his mother on January 8 after his release.

CORRECTION
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated what the consequences would be if pardoned murderer Joseph Ozment failed to comply with a subpoena to appear in court. According to the Mississippi attorney general's office, a judge has the authority to hold Ozment in contempt. We regret the error.

"We said we would find him, and we did," said Hood. "Now, we will let the court decide what happens from here."

Ozment is one of four convicted murderers Barbour pardoned this month. He did not appear at a court hearing in a case challenging the pardons. Hood has said officials wanted to serve Ozment with a document telling him to appear in court. If he does not comply, a judge has the authority to hold him in contempt, the attorney general's office said.

A Jackson, Mississippi, judge is expected to hear the case this week.

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.

It's just an every minute, constant, in the back of your mind, where is he?
Mary McAbee, sister of store clerk killed by Ozment

The move stirred outrage among relatives of the pardoned murderers' victims.

"It's just an every minute, constant, in the back of your mind, where is he? What is he doing?" said Mary McAbee, sister of Rick Montgomery, a store clerk shot to death by Ozment in 1992. Ozment pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"I'm fearful. He's a cold-blooded murderer to do what he's done, and if he thinks that he may go back to prison, what's he got to lose?" she said.

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."

The attorney general is questioning the pardons for "failure to sufficiently meet the publication requirements of the Mississippi Constitution," his office said.

Late Monday, Hood spoke to CNN's "AC360," slamming the former governor and questioning the motives behind his pardons.

"He ran the office of the governor as if it was Mississippi in the 1950s," said Hood. He said many of the inmates Barbour pardoned came from influential families or had connections to the Republican party.

"There's not any logical explanation other than it was just a whim, and by doing it on a whim at the last moment that's how he violated our Constitution," Hood said.

Barbour has defended his pardons. On Friday, he appeared on CNN's "John King USA," saying Ozment and the others have been rehabilitated.

"He has no obligation to do anything. He's been pardoned. He's a free man," Barbour said.

CNN's Rich Phillips contributed to this report.

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