If authorities in Florida wanted to pick up Jacob Allen Bennett on the felony larceny charge he has been wanted on since 2008, they had to only come to Tennessee and snatch him.
Bennett had been arrested multiple times here since 2008. In 2013 he even called down to Florida to see if he could make that charge go away.
Instead, Bennett was left to go about his life on Renegade Mountain in East Tennessee. And on Sept. 12, 2013, police say, he shot and killed Rikki Jacobsen, 22; her nephew, Dominic Davis, 17; and their friends Steven Presley, 17, and John Lajeunesse, 16.
While the larceny warrant was but one of many missed opportunities authorities had to lock up Bennett, it isn't a surprise he was able to evade Florida authorities so easily.
In fact, for many suspects nationwide — even some accused of murders and rapes — escaping justice is as simple as crossing state lines.
That's according to data obtained by USA TODAY from the National Crime Information Center's Wanted Person File. An analysis of more than 1 million active NCIC records as of May 29 shows that authorities were unwilling to spend the time or money to pick up 186,873 fugitives from another state, a process known as extradition. In Philadelphia, for example, even violent fugitives only had to hop three bus stops to Camden, N.J., to escape justice. Some in Middle Tennessee only have to drive 40 miles north to Kentucky to escape charges here.
An additional 78,878 would only be picked up if caught in a neighboring state.
Bennett was one of those cases in which police and prosecutors decided it wasn't worth pursuing him beyond Florida's neighboring states. That's hard to fathom for Tim Tapia, whose son Dominic was among the four found dead on Renegade Mountain that September day.
"You commit a crime, you need to pay for it. It's not, 'Well, we don't have the money for it or we're just going to let it ride,' " Tapia said. " 'Letting it ride' — look what happened. Four people are now dead because they chose not to do anything about it."
Escaping justice in Tennessee
In Tennessee, NCIC data showed that two out of every five fugitives needed only to leave the state to escape justice here. A third of violent crime suspects and almost three out of 10 sex crime suspects have a similar escape route. In all, Tennessee had 271 suspects wanted on either violent or sex crime warrants that were listed as "non-extradition" warrants.
That included nine homicide cases, six of which originated in Nashville.
Davidson County District Attorney Torry Johnson said his office's policy is to extradite all homicide suspects, despite the NCIC findings.
"We extradite on all homicides, period," he said. "As a general rule, we'll extradite on rape cases."
His spokeswoman explained that the six homicide fugitives were already in custody elsewhere.
"The ones that are listed here, the best we can tell, are ones that are being held in Tennessee by another agency, either federally, or by another county with a Tennessee hold on it," said spokeswoman Susan Niland. "Generally, that rule applies on rapes as well."
Davidson County compared favorably in the state, with relatively few cases in which authorities were unwilling to cross state lines to pick up suspects, according to the data. Other counties, such as Rutherford and Wilson, told the FBI they were unwilling to pick up more than eight out of 10 fugitives, even if they were arrested just 45 minutes to the north in Kentucky.
Rutherford County reported it was unwilling to go get 84 percent of wanted felons if they were picked up in a different state. Lisa Marchesoni, spokeswoman for the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, said it was impossible to dissect those numbers without the names of the suspects or warrant numbers.
"Each case is considered on its merits if the suspect will be extradited," she said. "Some minor felonies are considered non-extraditable; however, we aggressively pursue those individuals listed as violent offenders. If located out of state, we seek extradition approval from the District Attorney's Office."
In Wilson County, prosecutors put the onus on law enforcement.
"The law enforcement agencies on the front end actually make the initial determination," said Assistant District Attorney General Jason Lawson, who handles prosecutions in Wilson County. "But that initial determination doesn't really have much relation to the ultimate decision of whether someone is actually extradited."
He said some of those non-extradition warrants are cases in which a suspect is already in prison or jail. Other times, the cases are nonviolent crimes such as violations of probation or drug charges, he said. But when it comes to serious crimes, he said, their answer is always yes.
"There are occasions where we say no, but anybody who has a crime against a person or a sex crime, we absolutely do extradite those," he said. "I don't know of any cases where that's not been done."
But not picking up suspects even on seemingly "minor" crimes can have serious consequences.
INTERACTIVE: Search this database to see if your law enforcement agencies fail to chase down fugitives
Wanted for larceny
Bennett was wanted on one such crime — felony larceny. Authorities in Santa Rosa County, Fla., accused him of clearing out more than $1,000 from his girlfriend's bank account in 2008. But he moved to Tennessee before deputies could catch him.
Within months of putting his name into the FBI's database in 2009, authorities were fielding calls from Tennessee police telling them that their fugitive had been found, records show. In all, authorities had at least six chances to come pick him up between 2009 and September 2013. He wasn't hard to find — he was in a Tennessee prison from March 2010 to March 2013. Police records show Florida authorities knew exactly where he was and considered whether to extradite him on multiple occasions.
But every time, the answer was the same: Tennessee was too far away. Authorities there last heard from Bennett in March of 2013 shortly after he was released from a Tennessee prison. He called to ask whether there was any way to "take care of this (Florida charge) without being arrested," according to a police report. When the officer said no, he hung up.
Six months later, four bodies were found on Renegade Mountain near Bennett's home. He was arrested on four counts of premeditated murder, four counts of felony murder and two counts of aggravated robbery. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
His attorney, Robert Marlowe, declined to discuss the case against his client. But he said he was unsurprised Florida authorities didn't pick him up.
"Considering the amount of money involved, it probably wasn't worth it," he said.
Assistant State Attorney John Parker, who handles all extradition requests in Santa Rosa County, confirmed as much. He said the cost was too high and the charges would probably have only led to probation. Even if Bennett was locked up in 2009, he would have been out well before the Renegade Mountain murders, he said.
Parker doesn't second-guess the decision not to extradite.
"I'm saddened about what happened, but we don't have a crystal ball," he said.
For Tapia and other relatives of the four killed on Renegade Mountain, that's little solace.
"Our laws here are so easy for people to commit crimes and continue keep on committing crimes where eventually it leads to murder," he said. "And that's when they decide to get serious about it."
Family life has changed, as birthdays and holidays pass without Rikki and Dominic.
"It's never going to be the same," Tapia said. "Dominic and Rikki both were my best friends, and I'm just a wreck ever since this tragedy happened. I cry everyday."
She said court dates are especially difficult as she sits in the same room with the accused. That doesn't stop family members from attending every hearing they can.
"Something should be done so it doesn't happen to anybody else," said Dannie Crombie, step-father and grandfather to the victims.
Warrants in Tennessee
When police take out a warrant on someone suspected of a crime, they can choose whether they're willing to extradite, or pick up that suspect if they are arrested in other states. The following shows Middle Tennessee counties and the number of cases as of May 29 in which authorities were unwilling to pick up suspects who were stopped or arrested across state lines. The tally includes sheriff's offices and police departments.