The confession of a 38-year-old paroled rapist in the abductions and slayings of four teen-age girls in southeastern Michigan has touched off a flood of criticism of the state's criminal justice system, particularly the parole board.
The parolee, Leslie Allen Williams of Detroit, was arrested Sunday, the police said, after abducting a 35-year-old woman whom he had threatened to rape and kill.
After the arrest, the police said, Mr. Williams confessed to a series of sexual attacks and said he had kidnapped and killed four teen-agers, leading officials to their shallow graves in rural Oakland and Genesee counties, both northwest of Detroit. Three of the teen-agers -- Kami Villanueva, 18, and sisters Melissa and Michelle Urbin, 14 and 16 -- had been missing since last fall. The fourth girl, 15-year-old Cynthia Marie Jones, disappeared in January. Mr. Williams was arraigned Friday for two of those slayings.
"Leslie Allen Williams represents a failure of this entire criminal justice system, particularly the parole system," said John Nichols, the sheriff of Oakland County. "Leslie Allen Williams never should have been on the street. Four young ladies are dead because of that."
That Mr. Williams has bounced in and out of prisons over the last 20 years prompted legislators and law-enforcement officials this week to call for an overhaul of Michigan's parole system.
"People like this should not be cycled through the system, in and out, to prey on other people on the outside," Sheriff Nichols said.
Over the years, Mr. Williams has received numerous breaks from the justice system, getting relatively light sentences or early paroles after guilty pleas on various charges of breaking and entering, rape and assault since 1971.
His last sentencing was in 1983, when he threatened and abducted a woman, releasing her unharmed. Mr. Williams was sentenced to concurrent terms of 5 to 10 years in prison for the assault and 7 to 30 years under the state's habitual offender law. He served seven years and was paroled in 1990.
Michigan's seven-member parole board is appointed by the state corrections director. The members, whose salaries range from $63,000 to $68,000 are civil service employees and serve at the pleasure of the director.
In 1990, the board considered more than 11,000 cases and paroled 8,888 offenders. About 20 percent of those paroled end up back in prison after new arrests and another 20 percent return because of parole violations, corrections officials said.
George Ward, Wayne County's Chief Assistant Prosecutor, said Mr. Williams's history of paroles was typical.
"The parole board represents the bureaucratic interests of emptying beds and not one of them represents the public safety interest," Mr. Ward said. Changes Suggested
In the aftermath of Mr. Williams's case, state legislators have drafted legislation to make the panel more accountable. Under one plan, the panel would be expanded to nine members, who serve three-year terms upon appointment by the corrections director but would not be civil service employees, meaning that the Governor could seek to have them removed.
Despite the torrent of criticism from state officials, parole board members defended their decision to release Mr. Williams, saying they had no reason to keep him longer.
"They looked at all the things they are supposed to consider and made the best decision based on all those factors," said Gail Light, a spokeswoman for the parole board.
Ms. Light said Mr. Williams had "positive" factors, including completion of his high school degree and work toward an associate degree, employment in a prison factory for five years and participation in psychological therapy for 14 months.
That is of little consolation to Patrick Urbin, whose two daughters's bodies were found in a shallow grave this week.
"The system has failed us by letting this person out early," Mr. Urbin said. "He should be behind bars for the rest of his life."