As COVID ravaged New Jersey prisons during the height of the pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the release of thousands of inmates to stem the tide of infections behind bars. In October of that year, Murphy signed a law that created an early-release process to free up prison space during the pandemic.

One of the men that the law set free is now accused of committing a murder just two days after his release. was the first to report the crime.

Jerry Crawford, 25, of Atlantic City, was doing time for burglary. He was allowed to leave South Woods State Prison on November 4, 2020. On November 6, investigators say he and another man shot Davion Scarbrough.

Scarbrough's body was found riddled with bullets and dumped in a field less than half a mile from the prison where Crawford had been imprisoned.

The second man charged in connection with the killing, 23-year-old Yusuf Waites, had been let out of prison less than a month earlier after finishing a sentence on a gun charge.

"We warned Governor Murphy that he was putting the public at risk, but he disagreed, with tragic results." - NJ State Senator Michael Testa

The early release of more than 2,000 inmates came as New Jersey's prison system logged the highest COVID infection rate and death toll of any state in the nation.

Word of the murder brought sharp criticism from state Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cumberland, who opposed legislation allowing the early release.

"A member of the public is now dead as a direct result of the Murphy administration's dangerous early release policy," Testa said in a statement.

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