5 things for Houstonians to know for Thursday, March 31

Close to 200 Harris County inmates released after computer system issue, HCSO says

Here are things to know for Thursday, March 31:

1. Lured for $200: Suspect admits to role in death of 55-year-old Baytown grandmother, court docs show

A suspect charged in the shooting death of a 55-year-old Baytown grandmother has been arrested in Cincinnati, Ohio and, according to court documents, has admitted to setting up the unsuspecting woman.

Damere Ricardo Ferguson, 18, has been charged with murder and tampering/ fabricating with physical evidence.

Ring surveillance, friends of the acquaintances and phone conversations with an incarcerated inmate were among the evidence that led investigators to Ferguson’s identity and the hand he allegedly played in the woman’s execution, documents show.

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2. Dead body mixup: Woman says Memorial Hermann Hospital-Humble told her husband was dead but he wasn’t

It’s a phone call no loving spouse wants to get, but after a major mixup it’s one Betty Harris says keeps playing in her head over and over again.

Betty was told her husband, Bryant, was dead when in actuality, he wasn’t.

“It’s still affecting me. Every now and then, I think about it,” Betty said.

Back on March 8, she says she got what may have been the worst phone call of her life.

It came from a strange number she quickly learned was Memorial Hermann Hospital in Humble.

“[The doctor] said, ‘It’s about your husband.’ I said, ‘My husband was in a rehabilitation.’ He said ‘No, your husband is at the emergency room,’” Betty recalled.

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3. Students outraged after 2 alleged UH volleyball players appear in racist video near site of an infamous 1935 lynching

It took 100 years for the lynching bill to pass in the United States, and President Joe Biden’s signature made the act a federal hate crime law on Tuesday.

Now an unsettling video has surfaced showing two University of Houston volleyball players laughing at the spot of a historic lynching site in Texas.

Students on campus called the incident offensive and insensitive. Others said the university needs to hold the student-athletes involved accountable.

“It’s really bad, to be honest,” one student said.

Students at the University of Houston are talking about a short nine-second clip that is making rounds on social media.

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4. ‘It’s a huge embarrassment’: Close to 200 Harris County defendants released after computer system issue, HCSO says

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said a computer system went down last Thursday, an issue which continued into the weekend, leading to a backup and some defendants being released from the joint processing center.

“You can try to sugar coat things or whatever but the bottom line is it’s a huge embarrassment and that’s reality,” said Andy Kahan, Victim Services Director for Crime Stoppers of Houston.

Kahan said the issue is connected to the requirement that a probable cause hearing take place by 24 or 48 hours. He said someone tipped him off about the situation.

“That person basically said ‘Hey, we just cut loose close to 300 people because they weren’t given their probable cause hearings in due time,’” Kahan said.

The sheriff’s office estimates between 180 and 200 defendants were released but KPRC 2 is still working to get a final number.

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5. Harris County contract investigation stretches out over 14 months, according to law enforcement

When the Texas Rangers executed search warrants at the offices and residences connected to members of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s inner circle on March 11, the takeaway was clear according to KPRC 2′s Legal Analyst Brian Wice.

“Light is beginning to be shined on possible violations of state criminal law by public servants,” Wice said.

Possible violations involving senior staffers in Hidalgo’s office, according to law enforcement.

Hidalgo’s position? “What I can say is this I follow the law,” said the 31-year-old county judge during a recent news conference.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Rangers are investigating how an $11 million contract was awarded to the county.

“When we investigate public corruption, we are doing our job,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

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