GILBERT, Ariz. — A man arrested for a Gilbert home invasion earlier this month was released two days later after the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office did not file charges.
“Because we didn’t file charges, the suspect’s release conditions are dropped so he is technically free at this point. However, this does not mean that charges won’t be filed in the future,” said MCAO spokesperson Jennifer Liewer in a written statement to 12 News.
An intruder broke into a house after midnight and strangled to death 73-year-old Frank Bernal.
The attack appears random.
Bernal was a Vietnam veteran and belonged to a prominent pioneering family of Gilbert dating back more than a century.
As 12 News first reported Wednesday, Gilbert investigators arrested the suspect the night of the murder. He was in a nearby neighborhood. Police say he was at a nearby bar earlier in the evening where a friend identified him.
The friend told police the suspect walked out of the bar and smashed his hand into the glass door of a vape shop that was closed.
Bloodied and injured, the man then walked east towards the neighborhood where Bernal lived, police said. A quarter-mile trail of blood led from the vape shop to Bernal’s house, which is located next to Warner Rd.
It’s not clear what evidence police are lacking.
12 News is not identifying the suspect because he no longer faces the original charges.
Once someone is arrested, county prosecutors have 72 hours to file formal charges. If charges are not filed during that period, the suspect is no longer accountable for bond or release conditions.
“It is not unusual for our office to ask for additional information from a submitting law enforcement agency,” Liewer said.
Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Black, who is not affiliated with this case, tells 12 News it’s common for the County Attorney’s Office to let someone walk free after their arrest and then charge them days or weeks later. However, Black says those cases usually involve less serious crimes.
“I’ve never seen a case this serious where they didn’t have probable cause to file a charge,” Black said.
Gilbert Police are declining to provide an interview about the case.