What happens when a "wanted" man isn't wanted at all?

A Portrait Of The Young Man As A Fugitive 

What happens when a "wanted" man isn't wanted at all?

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Mug shots were featured with a brief description of the man or woman and the crime in question, along with a vocal warning not to try to apprehend these people on your own. Their crimes ran the gamut from robbery and assault to theft and passing bad checks. Leave the arrests to the professionals, the voice warned. Information and tips will be rewarded, but leave the arrests to the professionals.

These people were, after all, fugitives on the lam.

An image of Sullins appeared during the March 27, 2010, episode, alongside the phrase "passing bad checks" and a brief description of him.

"I started getting phone calls," Sullins says.

The cops are looking for you.

Sullins' friends, family and co-workers did see him on TV during an otherwise quiet spring morning three years ago. But the cops weren't actually looking for him -- nor almost a dozen other people featured that night, according to records. While a "warrant" had been issued for his arrest about a year prior, it was for missing a court date -- "capias warrant" in legalese -- and had been rescinded just four days after being issued.

He was left wondering why, precisely, his mug shot was being broadcast on TV 11 months after his guilty plea and six months after his full debt to society had been paid.

Sullins first placed a call to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department. No charges pending, a representative told him. And no, the police are not looking for you.

Next, he called Crime Stoppers' tip line, which is the entry point for deputized viewers of Crime Stoppers Case Files to report any and all relevant information. The organization countered the county's take on the matter and told Sullins there was a warrant out for his arrest. At the time, they went along with the paperwork on hand and bluntly told Sullins that the outstanding warrant remained.

Crime Stoppers Case Files producer Pinpoint Media gave Sullins a copy of the episode upon request. And once he got back home to his TV, Sullins finally saw what the others had seen.

***

"The whole idea is to share the facts," Rech says of the crux of his show. It's crime reportage in the vein of drama - the heroin of televised media. With partnerships coming full circle - government, media, citizenry - the program leans heavily in favor of transparency. Bring the victim's family to the forefront. Ensure that detectives have a hand in the narrative's accuracy. Get the information to the people and solve these cold cases.

A recent "borderline-documentary episode," as Rech describes it, featured Amy Mihaljevic, the 10-year-old Bay Village girl whose 1989 kidnapping and murder still remain unsolved.

That episode elicited at least 50 new leads in the ensuing days, Rech says.

Couple that with the hundreds of criminal leads he's seen come in following other episodes over the years and the alchemy of turning info into results becomes clear. Get the information to the people. But who ensures that the information is accurate?

One entry point for the reporting of crimes and the status of local criminals is the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court's online docket. The database details where along the stream of justice a particular defendant is. Fine print qualifies the web presence as unofficial, noting: "Only the official court records available from the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts, available in person, should be relied upon as accurate and current."

But the understanding at the court is that the online docket gets an hourly update, providing nearly real-time access to the plodding march of the local court system. The docket maintains a civil and criminal database.

And when it comes to the former "Fugitive File" segment, which gives a visual element to the court's archive of names and numbers, that docket is the primary check in assembling an episode.

The rolodex of personalities that comprised that segment was culled from a list obtained through the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office.

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