I-Team: Thousands in RI wanted on active warrants

It was a horrific crash that left even veteran officers shaken.

Barbara Ellis, 34, and the mother of a 13-year-old daughter, burned to death inside a car driven by her boyfriend, Brandon Borge.

Police said Borge was drunk and hit speeds over 100 mph as he led officers on a high-speed chase near the Cranston-Warwick line.

But more than a year later, he remained free, despite criminal charges and a bench warrant for his arrest.

"My family and I, we were just flabbergasted," said Ellis's father, Russ Casey.

Borge lost both legs in the crash.

Casey learned he was out of the hospital and still in the area, just a few miles away in Fall River.

The NBC 10 I-Team called Rhode Island State Police and less than 24 hours later, Borge was arrested and taken to court to face the charges.

"I think there are a lot of loopholes right now where people are slipping through the cracks," Casey said.

But how many other suspects have active warrants but managed to avoid arrest?

The I-Team pulled records for every open warrant in Providence Superior Court.

The results? About 12,000 active warrants for felony cases.

The I-Team focused on some of the most serious charges and found 301 people wanted for charges like murder, attempted murder, rape, child molestation, kidnapping, armed robbery, arson and driving under the influence, death resulting.

According to the I-Team, there are more than 40,000 open warrants statewide.

"Even with something as small as a misdemeanor, it's creating disorder in their life," said Carla Cuellar, a social worker.

Cuellar works with victims on a daily basis, riding with Providence police throughout the city.

"It creates a lot of instability. There's no safety for them," Cuellar said.

Rhode Island State Police Lt. Col. Michael Winquist said the department analyzes what's in front of them and they prioritize resources.

Winquist says some of those suspects may be out of state, or even dead.

But others are caught even after decades on the run.

Take Armin Christian, found living in a Bristol neighborhood in 2012, 30 years after he walked away from a minimum security prison in South Carolina.

"If somebody calls us on a high priority case, we will put our resources towards that case," Windquist said.

Newer computer systems also tell officers if anyone they come across has active warrants, immediately.

"So everybody on the street, as well as that trooper that ran that information, immediately knows that he's out with someone that does have a warrant against him," said Rhode Island State Police trooper Stephen Brown.

Borge remains free on bail, after answering his bench warrant in Providence Superior Court.

Because of the seriousness of his injuries, he may never do prison time.

Casey says he's prepared for that, as long as Borge answers for his daughter's death and his three previous drunken driving arrests.

"I guess what I'm after is that he finally mans up for all of his actions through life," he said.