Jails and Prisons

Inmate death a challenge for states: How to tell victims?

Marshall Metz had served five years of a life sentence for murdering his wife when his stepson Jimmy Trout got a startling message from Maryland's automated victim-notification service: "This e-mail is to inform you that Marshall Metz has been released from custody."

In fact, Metz had died.

That's what Trout and his wife Cindy soon learned by calling the state prison where Metz had been sent for killing Ann Sue Metz.

But when Trout first read the email, "my mind was going all over the place," said the Frederick businessman and chief judge of Frederick County's probate court. Although Trout knew his 71-year-old stepfather had been in failing health,...