A South Jersey man charged with murder in the shooting deaths of two men at an Edgewater Park birthday party in January had been released early from state prison because of coronavirus concerns, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday.

Ronny Paden, 27, of the 200 block of Hawthorne Way in Delran, was arrested earlier this month in the deaths of James Gist III, 29, of Westampton, and Marcus Thompson, 29, of Willingboro.

The two men were killed shortly before 1 a.m. Jan. 24 on the 200 block of Dogwood Road, where a friend, Donte Benns, was celebrating his 29th birthday. The day after the shootings, Benns told The Inquirer he was in his kitchen when Thompson got shot, then “died right in my arms.” Gist was shot multiple times while sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle, which was parked outside the home.

The investigation revealed that neither of the victims was the intended target, but the Prosecutor’s Office declined to say who may have been the target.

According to the affidavit of probable cause for Paden’s arrest, he had “issues” with another person at the party, whose name was redacted from the document, and who blamed Paden for another person’s death.

During a detention hearing Wednesday at which a judge ordered Paden to remain in custody, Assistant Prosecutor Jamie Hutchinson said Paden had been released “months early” from a New Jersey state prison sentence he had been serving, the Prosecutor’s Office said.

Paden’s attorney, Robin Lord, said afterward: “They got the wrong guy. Ronny did nothing wrong. ... Somebody else committed the crime.”

Paden was released in November after serving about 2½ years behind bars after pleading guilty to a drive-by shooting in Willingboro in which police said he shot a 25-year-old man.

His release was authorized by a law designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus among state inmates by releasing those with less than one year remaining on their prison sentences, authorities said.

In a statement Wednesday, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said Paden’s recent arrest “forces us to pause and consider the public safety implications ... to release inmates early, purportedly due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

“While no one wants state inmates or detainees placed at undue medical risk, the data suggests that inmates are no more likely to die of COVID-19 than any other New Jersey resident,” he said.