(CNN) — For three months, Mark Cherry lay in a Chicago-area hospital room, close to death.
He suffered a gunshot wound during a home invasion in Gary, Indiana — a crime he is accused of committing, and in which he allegedly shot and killed a 22-year old man.
In late February, fully recovered, Cherry discharged himself and walked out of the hospital.
Now, the victim’s family is questioning how an accused killer could just leave, with no one stopping him. Law enforcement and the hospital are blaming each other for the mix-up. And Cherry is still on the run.
“Why wasn’t he handcuffed? Why didn’t you have a police officer at the door waiting for him to get released?” Lourdes deJesus Correa, mother of the victim, Rolando Correa, told CNN affiliate WLS Tuesday.
The home invasion
Lourdes Correa’s son was killed more than five months ago.
Just before midnight on December 1, Cherry and two other men allegedly forced their way into a home where Rolando Correa was staying.
At some point during the home invasion, the residents of the home and Cherry allegedly struggled for possession of his gun, CNN affiliates, quoting police, reported. The exact details of the events leading to Correa’s death are unclear.
But at some point, Cherry was shot. An ambulance rushed him to a nearby hospital, and he was then transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Police charged him with murder, attempted murder, criminal confinement, and battery with a deadly weapon.
Cherry was apparently not under police guard during his hospital stay.
Advocate Christ Medical Center told CNN it can’t hold a patient against their will, and that without prior written consent, can’t alert another person of a patient’s pending discharge.
“If a patient is under suspicion for a serious offense, the police department involved in the case typically posts an officer on site during the period of the hospitalization,” the hospital said.
Police in Gary told WGN they didn’t have the manpower to sit in Cherry’s hospital room during the entire recovery period. Also, they’re not able to detain a suspect in another state — in this case, Illinois.
Gary Police could have asked the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois to monitor the suspect.
“Normally our procedure would be to reach out to those agencies,” Cmdr. John Cooros told WLS. That wasn’t done.
“Unfortunately, our investigators assumed because he was unconscious that the hospital would give the detective a call before he was released,” Chief Wade Ingram also told the affiliate.
CNN placed calls to Gary police, but didn’t hear back early Wednesday morning.
So, where is Cherry now? Police don’t know, but they’re looking.
“The main thing is that Mark Anthony Cherry is still out on the loose,” Cpl. Gabrielle King told WGN. “We want him apprehended so he can stand trial.”
It’s an emotional blow for a family that’s already lost so much.
“It’s like our whole family is falling apart due to this. We are falling apart,” Correa said. “Please, I just want justice for my son. For my family. That’s all I want.”
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