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State was taking too much from shooting spree gunman

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Workers gather outside Finniger's Catering Service last week after the shooting rampage. (UPI file photo/Bill Greenblatt)

By AP/KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The man who went on a shooting spree last week in St. Louis was right about one thing: The state was taking too much each month in child support.

The Department of Social Services says a data entry error boosted Herbert Chalmers' monthly payment by more than five times.

Co-workers say Chalmers had been upset that his wages were being garnished for child support. Last week, he killed four people before taking his own life. He also raped a fifth victim, but did not shoot her, and shot a sixth victim, who survived.

State officials acknowledge the error, but also say Chalmers had a number of opportunities to fix the mistake. They also say workers tried to contact Chalmers five times after he contacted the state.

And even with the error, the state says it did not take more than the total amount Chalmers owed in child support.

The Missouri Department of Social Services says the mistake was made when more than 400,000 child support files were converted to a new computer database in 1998. Spokeswoman Deborah Scott said the error increased Chalmers' monthly child support more than fivefold.

When Chalmers went on his rampage, the department was garnishing 50% of his paycheck - the state's top limit - for back support.

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