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5/30/09
2 Murderers Escape Ark. Prison in Guard Uniforms

GRADY, Ark. — Arkansas authorities are searching for two convicted murderers who walked out of a prison after dressing up like corrections officers. Jeffrey Grinder and Calvin Adams escaped Friday evening from a prison in Grady. Both men were serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Tyler says the guard uniforms the inmates put on are made in the prison. She says the men put them on in the prison library and walked out of the prison during a shift change. Tyler says 32-year-old Grinder and 39-year-old Adams drove away in a maroon or burgundy colored, 4-door sedan that had been left for them. Grinder was convicted of murder in 2004, and Adams was convicted in 1995. Both men have family in Arkansas and out of state.


3/30/05
Two murders, two escapes

Norman A. Porter, Jr. had pled guilty to second-degree murder for the 1960 shooting death of John Pigott, 22. John worked as a part-time clerk at the Robert Hall clothing store in Saugus, Massachusetts. Porter shot John with a sawed-off shotgun while robbing the store. While awaiting trial on John Pigott's murder, Porter shot and killed David S. Robinson, a guard at the Middlesex County Jail in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After killing David, Porter escaped and was later captured while robbing a New Hampshire grocery store. Again Porter entered a guilty plea and received two consecutive terms life terms. While serving those sentences, Porter earned a college degree. One of his life sentences was commuted by Governor Michael Dukakis in 1975.  Porter was living in a pre-release center in December of 1985 when he escaped by signing himself out to go for a walk from which he never returned.  After escaping from the pre-release center in 1985, Porter created a new life for himself as J.J. Jameson. He lived in Chicago, Illinois as a self-proclaimed poet until he was finally arrested on March 22, 2005. In 1993, Porter had been arrested for theft and fingerprints taken at that time were later matched against Porter's fingerprints in the FBI database. A police officer has seen a photograph of Jameson on a web site where he was declared "Poet of the Month." The officer recognized Porter and this led to his arrest.


1/29/03
Manhunt for escaped prisoner focuses on the First Coast

JACKSONVILLE, FL - There is a nationwide manhunt for a murderer and the focus of the manhunt is in Northeast Florida. First Coast News obtained an alert issued by the Northeast Florida Realtors Association that says escaped murderer Jerry Vernon may be in the area. Police in New Mexico say Vernon should be considered dangerous because has nothing to lose if caught. According to authorities Jerry Vernon was serving a life plus 19-year term when he escaped from prison. Vernon, a real estate tycoon, who has several rental properties out west, has allegedly been spotted on the First Coast doing what he does best; real estate. According to Glenn East of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, "This individual could act as an investor, could be buying or sell property out here, could be in one of the golf course communities, especially since the background shows he's an avid golfer." Vernon allegedly loves golf, high stakes casino gambling, and became a real estate legend in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the 70's. His skyrocketing success later sputtered to a halt when he was convicted of a 1989 drug related shooting that left a business partner dead. Prison officials say he made his escape by faking an ailment to get moved to a geriatric unit in another less secure part of the prison complex he was in. Using accomplices within the complex authorities he got the tools he needed to cut through a fence to freedom. Now New Mexico authorities say they have confirmed that Vernon is in the Jacksonville area and may be working in real estate once again. Jerry Vernon's two daughters in the meantime have been indicted for helping him escape from prison.


12/18/02
Convicted Durham Murderer Who Escaped Sentenced To Life
Security Tight In Durham Courthouse During Reed's Sentencing

DURHAM, N.C. -- A convicted killer who escaped from the Durham County Courthouse was sentenced to life without parole Wednesday. Omar Reed, who escaped from custody last week while at a courthouse, was sentenced to life in prison. Omar Reed winked as he walked into the courtroom Wednesday afternoon, WRAL reported. The convicted murderer was under heavy guard as several armed officers stood post at the doorways and in the hall. The Durham County Sheriff's Office increased security after last week's escape. On Friday, Reed used a homemade knife to overpower a guard and escaped. After his escape, the courthouse was placed on lockdown and a manhunt was launched throughout the city.
Six hours later, a tip came in and officers tracked down Reed and arrested him. The Durham County Sheriff's Office is conducting an internal investigation to determine where things went wrong. Sheriff's officials expect to wrap that up in just a few days.


2/24/02
Officials capture Texas murderer

RALEIGH, N.C. - An escaped Texas murderer was arrested at a North Carolina motel Saturday, almost a week after he overpowered a corrections officer and fled in a pickup truck. John William Roland III, 33, was arrested about 5 p.m. after police negotiated with him for about an hour, said Lt. Tom Earnhardt of the Raleigh Police Department. Police evacuated the fourth floor of the Red Roof Inn where Roland was staying and made contact by phone. During negotiations, Roland made threats on himself and toward police but eventually gave himself up peacefully, Earnhardt said. No weapons were found in the room, Earnhardt said, and Roland was alone. "We were very pleased that no one was hurt during this surrender," Earnhardt said. Parked outside the hotel was the gray pickup truck belonging to Sgt. Wesley Hurt, the guard Roland attacked before dawn Feb. 17. Roland had been tracked to the Red Roof Inn through a stolen credit card he was thought to be using, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Todd said. "We plan to file felony escape charges against him, which could get him another life sentence since he used a weapon in assaulting the sergeant during the escape," Todd said. John Moriarty, the prison system's inspector general who led a fugitive command post in Huntsville, Texas, said authorities detected that Roland was placing phone calls as they closed in on his fourth floor room. "Roland called his father and his mother, who were very instrumental in getting him to surrender without injury to himself or others," Todd said. Roland was serving a life term at the Robertson Unit, near Abilene, for gunning down former roommate Thomas Columbus Barrett. He had been in prison since 1993. Hurt was treated at a hospital for cuts and scrapes. He told investigators that Roland had threatened to kill him before the inmate took his keys and drove away in his truck. Prison officials are conducting an internal investigation into the breakout. The manhunt heated up Thursday when a credit card belonging to Hurt was used at a motel early Thursday in Missouri, then later at a Super Kmart in Terre Haute, Ind. The shopper, thought to be the fugitive, left the store about five minutes before police arrived. The FBI, along with a SWAT team from the local police department, tracked him Saturday afternoon to the motel where he was captured, Todd said. Roland was in the custody of Raleigh police Saturday evening. It was unclear when an extradition hearing would be scheduled, Earnhardt said.


5/2001

After 27 years, escaped murderer apprehended, returned to New Jersey
On the evening of May 10, 55-year-old Daniel "Danny C" Catalano was fishing from a dock near his home in sunny St. Petersburg, Fla. A carefree smile might have split his tanned face as he belted out an impromptu doo-wop song. He might have bragged about the good life within St. Petersburg's entertainment and political circles. Or perhaps he touted his website, which offered a virtual tour of his palatial estate overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. With a wink, he might have told you he'd been the self-proclaimed "bad-boy" of the oldies group, Sha Na Na. Yet what Catalano had built for himself was not an ideal existence, but an elaborate house of cards built on deception and murder. He has no ties to Sha Na Na. His web designer admits the site and the estate are shams. Even his name is fake. By 9:30 p.m. on May 10, Catalano, known to New Jersey law enforcement officials as Edward Solly, inmate number 03140, was surrounded by six deputy U.S. marshals, his arrest a swan song for a fugitive. Solly, a former resident of Gloucester City and Runnemede, sang a different tune in 1969 when he was sentenced to 25 years for fatally beating his girlfriend's 2-year old son in Camden County. State police investigators called the incident "a pummeling" delivered during a drunken rage. But investigators say Solly never planned to stay behind bars. In 1974, he escaped from medium security Leesburg State Prison (now known as Bayside State Prison), where he was serving his sentence. He originally was sentenced to Trenton State Prison (now New Jersey State Prison), but was transferred to Leesburg in the aftermath of a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by his mother and grandmother. Law enforcement officials believe the letter-writing campaign was part of an elaborate escape plan that commenced as soon as Solly was arrested. Reinventing himself in Florida as a club singer, Solly performed at oldies shows and posed with local police officers and politicians. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, his recklessly built cover was kept shrouded in secrecy by his mother, Edna Bolt, and family. "The mother was very insistent in keeping us away," Detective Louis Kinkle of the New Jersey State Police said at a May 18 press conference held immediately after Solly's return to New Jersey State Prison. But when she died in the year 2000, Solly's family finally led Department of Corrections investigators, the State Police and the U.S. Marshal's Service to Florida. Armed with the lead, the NJDOC Special Investigations' Fugitive Unit and State Police reached out to the U.S. Marshals Service and assisted in Solly's recapture. "A psychologist told us he's a manipulator, and that's how he's survived," Kinkle noted. "That held true right up until his arrest (when he initially denied his true identity). He manipulated the system, and he manipulated people throughout Florida." At first, Kinkle related, he was shocked that an escaped murderer would maintain such a high profile. Then, he was angered. "Here he was, living that way, and we have a 2-year-old child who died at his hands," the detective said. "It just wasn't right." Handcuffed and shackled at the prison intake, Solly's flashy image crumbled before an onslaught of media cameras and tape recorders.  "I eventually knew it would happen," a tearful Solly admitted. "All I can say is I've been sorry for all these years. I've tried to do the right thing. I made a mistake when I was young." Acting Commissioner Susan Maurer later told reporters, "We have just seen Edward Solly returned to serve out his sentence and to face new escape charges. We know that justice is blind. We also now know that she is very patient."


3/1/01
Murderer slips Oregon prison

Two inmates, including one serving a life sentence for murder, escaped prison Wednesday after cutting a hole in a perimeter fence. One has been recaptured. The murderer remained at large, while the other, a convicted rapist, was captured after the escape from the Snake River Correctional Institution. Oregon State Police and Malheur County sheriff's deputies were searching the area for Lee John Knoch, 23, convicted in 1998 on five counts of aggravated murder and charges of assault kidnapping, theft by extortion and harassment. He was convicted of murdering Robert Holliday, 30, to keep Holliday from testifying against him in a torture case in which Holliday was the victim. Holliday was brutalized and buried alive in March 1997, just days before Knoch's trial was to begin. Knoch was serving a life sentence without parole. The other inmate, Aaron O'Hara, 23, was caught by an officer patrolling the roads outside of the prison, said Perrin Damon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections. O'Hara is serving a six-year sentence for sodomy, sex abuse and two counts of rape.


2/16/01
1993 Escaped Murderer Captured

The Florida Department of Corrections is pleased to announce the recapture of escaped killer Thomas Menut, DC# 0819i7. Menut was apprehended in Conway, Arkansas with information from an informant to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Menut has been at large for 8 years. At the time of his escape on Nov. 11, 1993, Menut was serving a life sentence for first degree murder at Polk Correctional Institution in Polk County. He scaled two 12 foot perimeter fences and ran into the woods. He evaded the combined law enforcement and k-9 units in the area.  Menut will be taken before a judge in Arkansas and given the opportunity to sign a waiver of extradition and return to Florida voluntarily. Should he refuse, the Florida Department of Corrections will request a Governor's warrant for his extradition. "We are relieved that this dangerous individual is back in custody," said Department Secretary Michael W. Moore. "The state of Florida owes a debt of gratitude to all the law enforcement agencies involved in the apprehension of this felon." Menut will be returned to the North Florida Reception center where he will be reprocessed and serve the remainder of his sentence. He will also be facing the additional charges of escape.

3/3/01
Escaped murderer lives on the lam for seven years

CONWAY, Ark. -- Neck-deep and alone in a Florida swamp, Theodore "Teddy" Menut could hear himself breathing. His heart beat in his head. Hound dogs barked in the distance. Helicopters buzzed the bayou. It was just before 6 p.m. on Nov. 11, 1993, shortly after Menut broke out of prison. Using a makeshift ladder he built in the prison shop, he scaled two 15-foot razor wire fences, then crossed an open field, a road and a drainage ditch and hit the swamp. As the sun set, he could see the swirling search lights of the Polk Correctional Institution in Polk City, Fla. He was determined not to go back to where he was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. Menut says he spent three days hiding in the mud amid the alligators and cypress trees, then made a run for freedom that took him to Arkansas and dropped him back into society for seven years. That's the tale Menut told last week while sitting in lock-up at the Faulkner County Detention Center in Conway, waiting for an armed escort back to a maximum-security Florida prison. "I felt I had done enough time after 13 years. All I wanted to do was be free and live a regular life," Menut said. "And I guess all it really takes is determination and the will for freedom." With help from some friends, Menut caught a bus out of south Florida and headed for Arkansas, where he thought he could blend in. He stopped running in El Paso, Ark., a rural farming community a short drive north of Little Rock. Menut picked up construction jobs in surrounding towns, and always asked to be paid in cash. He says he borrowed cars from friends and bought stolen driver's licenses and Social Security cards for $500 a pop. "I just figured I'd blend back into society and hope they never find me again," Menut said, his head hung low, tears streaming from his eyes. "You see, a man on the run has nowhere to go. You have no identity, no money of your own, nothin' at all." He was known as Tommy to those who befriended him. Knowing that his nervousness would be a dead giveaway that he was on the run, Menut said he would tell close friends that he was wanted for back child support. "That's a whole lot better than telling them I was wanted for first-degree murder," he said. Menut said he felt he didn't deserve a life sentence. After all, he said, he was only the driver in 1981 when his passenger opened fire on some bouncers standing outside a Broward County, Fla., bar, killing a 19-year-old man. Menut said his wife had been tossed out of the bar earlier that night so he went back in a fit of anger to find out what had happened. "I never meant for anyone to get killed," he said. He said he was represented by the same lawyer who defended the shooter, who testified against him in exchange for immunity. When the last of his appeals failed, Menut believed he had nothing to lose by escaping. Cheryle Lewis, a friend of the slain man who was at the bar the night of the shooting, has quite a different view. She told a South Florida newspaper that she cracked open a bottle of champagne upon hearing that Menut was again in custody. "I cried tears of joy when I heard they caught Teddy," Lewis told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She says Menut belongs behind bars. Menut was 23 when Bryce Waldman, a University of Miami student, died outside the Agora Ballroom in Hallandale, Fla. Menut is 43 now and blames his predicament on youthful ignorance. "I made some pretty stupid, rash decisions when I was younger," he said. "This was my chance to start over." In El Paso, a cow town of 300, Menut saved money, bought four acres of land under a fake name and lived a lie. "You could go out on some of these back roads and no one would ever know you're there," said Oscar Jones, who owns a nearby fruit orchard. He said everyone pretty much knows everyone around these parts, but few knew Menut. "We're just a tiny circle on the map," said Randy Patrom, who owns a small engine repair shop in El Paso. "People don't bother each other out here. Everybody pretty much takes care of themselves." In 1998, Menut met a woman who lived on a houseboat near Little Rock. The two became close, and he would alternate his time between his mobile home at El Paso and her home on the Little Maumelle River. Cassandra Moore, whose parents live on a boat on the same dock as Menut's girlfriend, said there was no reason to believe Menut was living a secret life. "We all loved Tommy," Moore said. "He is such a sweetheart. We spent a lot of time together at cookouts along the river. He was just the funniest guy. "I wish we could change places with him," she said. "He's got a bunch of friends here ... that will welcome him back when he gets out." Mike Kierre, who owns a construction company in North Little Rock and says he's been friends with Menut for six years, said nothing led him to believe Menut had a criminal past. "I had no reason to ever question him about anything," Kierre said. "He's always been a super nice guy. I trusted him with everything, even the keys to my office." Menut had subcontracted work through Kierre's company. "He was the most responsible subcontractor I had," Kierre said. "One of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. I guess he just got caught up in something he shouldn't have." While in Arkansas, Menut said he spent his weekdays working odd jobs and would head into the Ozark Mountains on the weekends to sight-see and shop at craft markets. It was the life he always wanted and finally found. He made the last payment on his land days before he was recaptured and thought he was free and clear. "I know I just took the wrong road back then," he said. "And now I'm going back to Florida to spend the rest of my life in jail. I got nothin' to look forward to." It was Friday, Feb. 16, and Menut had driven to a friend's house in North Little Rock to dry some clothes. He says he was there for maybe a half-hour when he heard the police outside. Arkansas State Police spokeswoman Kim Fontaine said officers with the FBI, the state police and the Faulkner County SWAT team surrounded the home after receiving an anonymous tip. She said the agents could see smoke coming from the chimney and later learned Menut had been burning his false identification records, driver's licenses and Social Security cards. After about another half-hour, she said, Menut gave himself up. "It's pretty depressing," Menut said, sobbing uncontrollably in a holding cell. "This ain't no kind of life." Debbie Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections, said Menut would have been eligible for parole in 2004. He'll now face charges for escape, she said. Buchanan said an inmate who escaped with Menut was recaptured about a month later. He was sentenced to an additional five years and Buchanan said she suspects Menut will face a similar sentence. "I just threw my real identity away and now I got it back," Menut said. "There goes my normal life."


1/31/01
Six inmates, two serving life without parole, escape from Alabama prison

PELL CITY, Ala., Jan. 31 -- Authorities using dogs and a helicopter searched Wednesday for six prison inmates who escaped from the St. Clair Correctional Facility 30 miles northeast of Birmingham, Ala. The six, including three convicted killers, escaped through two security fences Tuesday night. "We have 100 law enforcement officials with canine units on the ground and have a helicopter doing an aerial search," prison spokesman John Hamm said. "We're searching over about a 20-mile radius from the prison." They could have escaped as early as 5:30 p.m., but their disappearance was not noticed until 8 p.m., Hamm said. Prison officials said O.C. Borden, 33; and Gary Scott, 31; were serving sentences of life without parole for murder. Steve Murphy, 45, was also serving life for murder, but would have been eligible for parole in the future. Jack Allred, 43; and Billy Gamble, 24; were serving time for robbery, and James McClain, 35; was in prison for burglary. Prison Commissioner Mike Haley said the men used a broom stick to lift an electrified fence so they could slip under without touching it. Then they went under a second fence that wasn't electrified. Haley said the electrified fence had been operating erratically since it was installed in 1996. He also said he and other officials were not sure whether it was a copycat escape following the example of seven escapees from a Texas prison last month. Six were captured last week and a seventh committed suicide. St. Clair is one of three maximum security prisons in Alabama and has 1,301 inmates to 188 correctional officers, a ratio that Haley called insufficient.


1/15/01
Two inmates escape from Oklahoma prison

McALESTER, Okla.- Two inmates, one of them a convicted rapist-murderer, escaped from the state prison early Monday. The inmates were reported missing from a maximum-security wing at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary about 5 a.m., said Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. The pair's escape went unnoticed until they were discovered missing from their cells. Massie identified the escapees as James Robert Thomas, 25, and Willie Lee Hoffman, 21. Thomas was sentenced to life without parole for first-degree murder in November 1997. He received an additional 400 years in prison for rape, Massie said. Hoffman is serving a 20-year sentence for kidnapping and other charges. He had no details on the nature of their crimes. The escape is the first from the high-security unit at the prison known as H Unit, Massie said. Authorities do not know how the pair managed the escape, Massie said. "That's what we're looking at," he said. Massie said corrections officials and local law enforcement agencies have mounted a search using tracking dogs in the remote area around the prison. "They were able to get some type of track, but I don't have any update on it," he said. Both inmates are considered dangerous but there was no evidence that the two had armed themselves before they fled, Massie said. Authorities in neighboring Texas are grappling with the escape of seven convicts who disappeared Dec. 13 from the maximum-security Connally Unit, 60 miles southeast of San Antonio. They have since been charged with the Christmas Eve slaying of a Dallas-area police officer, and are still missing.

1/16/01 - McALESTER — Two violent inmates remained on the run late Monday after shattering the escape-proof image of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary’s “High Max” unit. Correctional officials discovered James Robert Thomas, 25, and Willie Lee Hoffman, 21, missing about 5 a.m. Monday. Less than four hours after the escape, the inmates accosted two women at a recreation club, robbed them of $65 and stole a car, McAlester police said. The men were armed with a knife, and one discussed taking one of the women hostage, police spokeswoman Janet Burns said. “The other one talked him out of it,” Burns said. “These ladies were very lucky.”  The escape marked the first from the penitentiary’s high-security H Unit. The concrete unit, which opened in 1991, houses nearly 300 of the prison system’s most violent criminals and troublemakers. Prison spokeswoman Lee Mann said a preliminary investigation indicated that the inmates removed toilets from the back of their cells. That gave them access to a maintenance crawl space behind the wall. They crawled through an air duct, made their way to the roof and finally reached the ground, she said. “They climbed over two fences and were gone,” Mann said. A third inmate who attempted to escape was caught in razor wire between the two fences, Mann said. She identified him as Nathan Washington, 28, a convicted robber. Prison officials warned that Thomas, who murdered and raped an 81-year-old woman, and Hoffman, a convicted kidnapper, could be dangerous and desperate. “We’re mainly interested in the public being very vigilant and cautious,” Mann said. Dozens of local and state law enforcement officers were on the lookout for the stolen car — a white 1995 Oldsmobile with a maroon stripe and Oklahoma license plate PIJ-074. Corrections officials and local law enforcement agencies mounted a search using tracking dogs in the remote area around the prison, said Jerry Massie, state Corrections Department spokesman. Officers checked motorists at roadblocks, while a helicopter and an Oklahoma Highway Patrol airplane searched from above. The escapees were hiding under a trampoline when the two women went inside the Boys and Girls Gymnastic Club to exercise before 9 a.m. Monday, Burns said. The building, on Hereford Lane off U.S. 69, is in a rural part of McAlester about two miles from the penitentiary. Linda Johnston, who normally joins the women in their Monday morning workout, voiced shock upon learning about the crime several hours later. “Are they OK?” Johnston said. “Were they hurt?” Four teen-agers riding four-wheelers in a muddy field across the street fro/m the recreation club Monday afternoon said they were unaware — and unconcerned — that the inmates were loose. But Janice Crews, who lives west of the club, said her daughter, who was home at the time, was terrified when she heard the report on a police scanner. “I told her to get in the car and leave the house, or lock the doors and not answer for anybody,” said Crews, who was at work. John Brewer, who lives east of the prison, said he was feeding his horses about 6:15 a.m. when two sheriffs’ cars stopped and asked if he’d seen the inmates. Apparently, the inmates had just run through his yard, he said. “I’m not really sure I want to go home,” said Brewer, interviewed at a McAlester convenience store. Before accosting the women, the inmates tried to steal a truck near the prison, but the truck died, Burns said. “We know for sure that it was them that tried to take that truck,” she said. At a store near the prison, one Oklahoma State Penitentiary correctional officer said he heard the inmates used dental floss and Ajax cleaner to cut through steel reinforcements in the concrete wall. Mann acknowledged that dental floss is a common inmate escape tool. But she said she had heard no such report in this case. “I thought we had stopped selling dental floss in our canteen.” 


12/14/00
Seven inmates slip Texas prison, believed well-armed

KENEDY, Texas - Authorities searched Thursday morning for seven inmates, including two convicted murderers, who took guards hostage, commandeered a cache of weapons then fled from a south Texas prison in a stolen pickup truck. Corrections officers, tracking dogs and Texas Rangers converged on the area outside the Connally Unit prison after the daring escape Wednesday. Two of the inmates were believed to be armed with 14 .357 Magnum pistols and 238 rounds of ammunition. "We think this is a well-planned and well-executed escape that may have been under consideration by some of the inmates for several weeks," said Larry Todd, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Todd said the inmates - all sentenced for violent crimes - took 11 employees and three other inmates hostage in the maintenance shop, where they worked as trusties. They then dressed in clothes taken from the civilian workers and raided a guard tower for weapons and ammunition. They surprised two guards near the back gate and tied them up before making their getaway, Todd said. The white pickup was found later at a Wal-Mart store near Kenedy, about 50 miles southeast of San Antonio. About 100 correctional officers - some with tracking dogs, some on horseback - searched nearby fields for the inmates. The Connally Unit has been locked down while prison workers and other inmates are questioned. Though all the escapees were convicted of violent offenses, they had clean enough records behind bars to earn trusty status in the maintenance shop, Todd said. They were serving sentences ranging from 30 years to life in prison for kidnapping, robbery, sex assault, child abuse or murder.


12/9/00
Man who murdered Delaware woman after escape from prison to be executed

David F. Dawson was sentenced to be executed March 9 for the 1986 stabbing death of a Kenton woman. The sentencing came 14 years and 7 days after Dawson, who had escaped from Delaware Correctional Center near Smyrna, broke into Madeline Marie Kisner's home and stabbed her 12 times. Dawson, his head bowed, brown hair cascading over his shoulders, uttered a quiet "No, sir," when Superior Court President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely asked him if he had anything to say before the sentence was read. Ridgely, who sentenced Dawson to death after his trial in 1988 and again in 1993 after the case was returned to Delaware by the U.S. Supreme Court, pronounced sentence for what could be the last time. "Between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 3 a.m.," Ridgely said, "[Dawson] shall be taken to some place of private execution within the prison enclosure, and then and there ... shall be injected intravenously with a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death, until you are dead." Ridgely omitted the traditional closing line: "God have mercy on your soul." Dawson, 45, whose abdomen is tattooed with the name "Abaddon," the demon of the abyss from the Book of Revelation, showed no emotion. Several members of Kisner's family attended the sentencing and left immediately afterward. Kevin J. O'Connell, Dawson's attorney, told Ridgely that he would file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. O'Connell hopes the high court will agree to review a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision that Dawson and 3 other inmates could be sentenced under Delaware's 1991 death-penalty law even though they committed their crimes before the law was enacted. If the justices refuse to hear the case, Dawson's last hope would be for the state Board of Pardons to recommend that his sentence be commuted to life in prison. Such a recommendation would leave the decision up to Gov.-elect Ruth Ann Minner. During her tenure as head of the Board of Pardons, the board has never recommended a commutation in a capital case.  


4/15/00
Police search for escaped murderer, find partner dead

Reno police wearily wound down Friday from an intensive manhunt for prison escapee and convicted murderer James Prestridge, believed to be hiding in the Reno area. Officers chased more than 15 reported sightings of the man Thursday, ruling out each one and exhausting all leads. “Last night I thought we were close, now I feel just as far away as when we started,” Lt. Rick Saulnier said Friday morning after a night of little sleep. “I probably drove every street in Reno yesterday looking for this guy.” Meanwhile, the body of John Doran, the man Prestridge escaped with on March 25, was discovered on March 29 in Mexico, authorities reported Friday. San Diego Sheriff’s Department officials said Doran, 26, was found alongside a toll road south of the border city of Tijuana. He appeared to have been shot in the back of the head, the Sheriff’s Department said Friday. Since no identification was found on the body, authorities weren’t able to determine his identity until his fingerprints were matched this week, department spokesman Lt. Ron VanRaaphorst said. Doran’s body was found four days after he and Prestridge, 38, overpowered two private extradition guards who were transporting them from Nevada to prisons in other states. The guards had driven to San Diego to pick up other inmates. This week in Reno, nearly every detective stood ready to chase sightings of Prestridge. Other officers set up surveillance at areas they thought the fugitive had been frequenting. Police have investigated several sightings throughout the week, stopping a city bus Tuesday and closing a Bank of America branch Wednesday. “We have to be ready to jump on these quickly, even if they are false,” Saulnier said. Officers began to regroup Friday and plan other ways to find Prestridge. “We don’t even know if he is still in the area,” Saulnier said. “We’re still trying to solicit information from Secret Witness and the public. This guy has got to eat somewhere and sleep somewhere.” Prestridge and Doran escaped at a rest stop near Chula Vista, Calif. as Prestridge was being taken from Nevada State Prison in Ely to a prison in North Dakota under an exchange agreement. Doran was in prison for a Las Vegas robbery. Prestridge was sentenced to life in prison without parole for shooting pizza parlor manager Esfandiar “Essie” Ateighechi as he begged for his life in 1989 in a dark field near Reno/Tahoe International Airport. Prestridge’s co-defendant in the murder, Sean Hendricks, also was sentenced to life without parole.

4/29/00
Murder fugitive collared peacefully in Reno

Reno police ended an exhaustive month-long manhunt Friday for prison escapee James Prestridge, capturing the convicted murderer outside a Reno store as he walked back to truck he had stolen. Prestridge, 39, of Sparks, was taken into custody without violence at about 4:30 p.m. Police spotted the stolen red and white GMC pickup they believe he had been driving parked behind an apartment complex near the Sav-On Drugs store at 1250 W. Seventh St. near Keystone Avenue. Lt. Rick Saulnier said the suspect was seen approaching the truck about 15 minutes after police established a perimeter around the store. Prestridge saw officers sitting atop the vehicle and began to walk away but then turned back. “He walked up and told the officers, ‘You know who I am,’” Saulnier said. “He was very cooperative.” Saulnier said at least one gun was found inside the pickup. Later that day, Prestridge waited at Reno Police Headquarters for his guarded escort to Nevada State Prison in Carson City. As a calm and relaxed Prestridge was led outside the police station, the media followed the shackled prisoner on his way to a patrol car. “Did you kill John Doran,” one reporter asked. Preston replied: “No.” “What have you been doing since you escaped?” another interviewer said. “Spent at little time in Mexico, spent a little time in Fresno and then back here,” he said. “Have you committed any crimes since you’ve been out?”
Prestridge: “Yes.” He didn’t elaborate. “Were you a threat to any of the people who testified at your trial?” He smiled, shrugged and said no. A contract transport company, Extraditions International, was driving Prestridge and another inmate, John Doran, 26, to other jurisdictions on March 25 when the two men overpowered officers and escaped. Doran was found dead on a highway outside Tijuana, Mexico on March 29. He appeared to have been shot in the back of the head, according to officials with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. Nevada and California authorities have investigated hundreds of sightings of Prestridge since his escape March 25 at a Chula Vista, Calif., truck stop. Saulnier said Fresno, Calif., police tipped Reno officers off to Prestridge’s movements Thursday night when they pursued a red Acura they believed he may have stolen. Police think Prestridge had traveled back and forth between Fresno and Reno — a distance of 308 miles — several times in the past two weeks. The search for Prestridge intensified Friday morning when several vehicles matching the pickup’s description were sighted in northwest Reno. Police had stopped a similar pickup on Interstate 80 at Keystone just an hour before Prestridge’s capture.  Saulnier said Prestridge confessed to committing a burglary early Friday morning. He charged into a Washoe Valley home and escaped with a safe and several weapons. Prestridge and his friend, Sean Hendricks, pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of a Reno pizza parlor man, Esfandiar “Essie” Ateighechi, in 1989. Both men had been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Reno police launched an all-out manhunt during the week of April 10 when reports of Prestridge sightings began to trickle in. Officers set up surveillance at areas they thought the fugitive had been frequenting and investigated several sightings, including stopping a city bus April 11 and closing a Bank of America branch April 12. Police got their biggest break later in the week when they found a car Prestridge allegedly had stolen from someone at the University of Nevada, Reno. Inside, police found stolen candy bars, football jerseys and a notebook of addresses of people Prestridge apparently had grudges against. Police said Prestridge had contacted associates locally and had indicated he was armed with a gun and desperate. They believe Prestridge may have been trying to find his ex-wife though Prestridge also denied that as he was transferred. Saulnier said Prestridge had taken at least three vehicles during that week, all of which had been left with the keys inside. The cars, which police recovered, were stolen within an hour of each other. “We knew his method for stealing the vehicles,” Saulnier said. “Each place we went, we found the other car he had stolen before.” Carson City Sheriff’s Office deputies began investigating renewed sightings of Prestridge this week. Before Prestridge’s escape, the extradition contractor had picked up the prisoner at Ely State Prison and was transporting him to a North Dakota prison under an exchange agreement. Doran, who was serving consecutive six-year sentences for robbery from Clark County, also was being moved from Lovelock State Prison to Colorado to face other charges. Saulnier said Prestridge was cooperating with police during questioning Friday evening.


4/7/00
Escaped murderer returns to N.H. after doing time in Tennessee

BARNSTEAD, N.H. -- An escaped murderer who was sent back to prison in Tennessee after living the straight life in New Hampshire for more than 20 years has returned home to Barnstead. Robert Corliss, 53, was released from prison this week. Corliss maintains he shot and killed Phillip Edwards in 1967 in self defense during a scuffle in a parking lot at a teen nightspot in Springfield, Tenn. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison, but escaped soon after, in 1971, from the Turney Center in Tennessee. He and the Barnstead police chief said the FBI came to town years later and told Corliss he was no longer wanted. He lived in Barnstead for more than 20 years without incident until a newspaper article in Nashville alerted the victim's family that Corliss was free. He was arrested and served three more years in prison before his release this week.


12/31/99
Guard captures escaped murderer; second escaped murderer captured shortly after

CLALLAM BAY, WA — A convicted murderer who escaped from Clallam Bay Corrections Center was apprehended this morning, officials at the Olympic Peninsula prison said. Daniel Jolliffe, a Bellevue construction worker convicted of killing two men in Seattle's Pioneer Square, was found hiding beneath a truck by a guard near the prison. Jolliffe and another man scaled a fence and escaped into the woods about 1 a.m. Wednesday. The other inmate, Steven Henderson, 25, was soon caught just outside the perimeter, prison spokeswoman Patricia Woolcock said. Jolliffe, 27, was convicted by a King County jury of two counts of second-degree murder. He shot two men to death March 27, 1993, outside a First Avenue cafe. He was described by his family as a former Army Ranger — an elite force trained in advanced survival and combat skills. Henderson is serving a 30-year sentence for first-degree murder in the death of a Lynnwood man who was thrown into the Skykomish River and drowned. It's still not known how the men got out of their locked cells in one of the prison's close-custody units. The units house inmates who need more than medium but less than maximum security, Woolcock said. She said the men apparently tricked guards by leaving a human-like dummy and a puffed-up bed in their cells. Jolliffe said he acted in self-defense in the 1993 shooting, but a judge said he followed two men out of the J&M Cafe and gunned them down as they were leaving.


12/19/99
Escaped murderer and prison guard caught
'America's Most Wanted' aided in the capture of the fugitives from Victoria trailer park

VICTORIA, TX - A convicted murderer and the Missouri prison guard who allegedly helped him escape were awaiting extradition Saturday after a tip to "America's Most Wanted" led investigators to their trailer-park hideout. Terry William Banks, 26, and Lynette J. Barnett, 27, had not been seen since Oct. 29 when Banks, who was serving a life sentence for a 1992 murder, walked out of the maximum-security Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Mo., wearing a prison guard's uniform. The pair, who were considered armed and dangerous, were arrested in a trailer park on the outskirts of Victoria about 7:30 a.m. Saturday, officials said. The FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Victoria County Sheriff's Office and Victoria Police Department participated in the raid. Also arrested were Banks' father, 51-year-old Charles Lawrence Banks, Roberta Jean Jones, 37, and Paul Reuben Hoard, 39, all of Victoria, who were inside an adjoining trailer. They were held on suspicion of hindering apprehension and prosecution of a known felon - a felony charge, Sheriff Michael Ratcliff said. All five remained jailed without bond pending arraignment on Monday, a jailer said.
The arrests followed an anonymous tip to the Fox TV show, "America's Most Wanted," which aired a segment on the case Dec. 11. Ratcliff said the show's producers apparently contacted the FBI, which recruited the help of local law enforcement. Banks, a Benton Harbor, Mich., resident, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1995 in Greene County in southwestern Missouri. He was serving life without parole for the 1992 shooting death of Tim Eastburn of Rocky Comfort, Mo., whose wife was also sentenced to life in prison. Banks faces state and federal escape charges. Barnett faces a Missouri charge of aiding in Banks' escape and a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Those charges carry sentences of two to five years in prison.


12/8/99
Killer charged with murdering while on the loose

STAR CITY, Ark. - A convicted killer who escaped and was recaptured in Missouri after crashing into another vehicle was charged in the death of the man whose truck he was driving. Kenneth Williams, 20, of Pine Bluff, will be arraigned Wednesday on a capital murder charge in the shooting death of Cecil Boren which happened after he escaped in October. Williams was charged Tuesday in Lincoln County Circuit Court with murdering Boren at his home near Grady on Oct. 3. Williams left the Cummins Unit of the state prison system in a 500-gallon vat of table scraps from the prison kitchen, which was headed for a barn. Police say after he got off prison grounds, he made his way to Boren's house, killed him and stole his truck. Missouri police spotted the truck at Lebanon, Mo., and gave chase. Officers arrested Williams at Urbana, Mo., after he slammed into a Culligan delivery vehicle, killing the driver. Police found guns and jewelry from the Boren home in Boren's truck after the crash. Williams was returned to Arkansas after waiving extradition. He's also being charged with aggravated robbery, theft of property and escape. He is being held in the more-secure Tucker Unit in an isolation cell. Prison officials say Williams is allowed out of his cell only three hours a week, except for court appearances and medical visits. At Cummins, Williams was in a 34-man barracks, officials said, which gave him some freedom. Williams was sentenced to life in prison for the December 1998 murder of Dominique Hurd of Fort Worth. The girl was a cheerleader at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and was on her first date with Peter Robertson of Vineland, N.J., when she was shot. Robertson also was wounded. Jurors were split over imposing a death sentence for the Hurd slaying. Tuesday's announcement by Prosecutor Steve Dalrymple that Williams had been charged in Boren's death did not say if Dalrymple would seek the death penalty in the Boren case.


11/2/99
Authorities search for escaped murderer
Prisoner cut the fence at psychiatric facility

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - A federal fugitive warrant was issued Monday for Charles Selby, who escaped late Sunday from the Huron Valley Center, a psychiatric hospital for prisoners in Pittsfield Township. Selby, 30, crawled through the window of his first-floor room and cut through a 16-foot fence before scaling a second fence, said Matt Davis, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. Officials do not know how Selby cut the fence. After escaping about 8:25 p.m., Selby stole a dark blue 1988 Ford pickup from a home on Tess Lane, south of the prison, according to investigators at the State Police post in Ypsilanti. He was last seen about 9:45 p.m. at a gas station off U.S.-23 at Sterns Road in Monroe County, gassing up a truck similar to the truck which was stolen. The stolen truck has Michigan license plate 38JRA. Selby, who was sentenced in 1988 to life without parole for a murder in Jackson County, attempted an escape in September 1998 from the Riverside Correctional Facility in Ionia, Davis said. After that attempt, he was transferred to the Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility, Davis said. From there he was transferred to the Huron Valley Center, on the grounds of the Huron Valley Men's Facility. Despite the escape attempt, Selby was sent to the Huron Valley Center because doctors determined that Selby needed specialized psychiatric care available at the center, Davis said. Because the center is a hospital, its security classification is not exactly equivalent to a prison, he said. Ionia has a Level 6 classification, which is maximum security. The center, which does not have bars on the windows or razor wire on the fences, has a Level 5 classification. Selby has relatives in Missouri and Florida and may be headed to those states, said Greg Stejskal, an FBI special agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. Selby is a white male, 6 feet, 210 pounds with brown hair and eyes, he said. He has a ring of rose thorns tattooed on his left wrist, a heart on the inside of his right forearm and a skeleton on the outside of his right forearm.

Escapee caught after 7 days
November 7, 1999

GREEN OAK TOWNSHIP, MICHIGAN -- Authorities in Livingston County said they caught a convicted murderer who recently escaped from a psychiatric prison. Green Oak Township Police Sgt. Ron Crowe said an officer responding to a call about a stolen truck caught Charles Selby, 30, Friday about 9:45 p.m. Crowe said Selby led the officer on a chase into an industrial park, where Selby got out of his vehicle and fled on foot into a wooded area before the officer was able to catch him. Selby escaped Oct. 31 from the Huron Valley Center, which is on the grounds of the Huron Valley Men's Facility. He was turned over to state police and Department of Corrections officials Friday night, Crowe said. Selby was sentenced to life in prison in 1988 for a murder in Jackson County. Last week, police say Selby cut a hole in the inner fence of the 240-inmate prison, then scaled the outer fence to make his escape. They say he then stole a car from a nearby subdivision and was spotted later at a gas station near the Ohio border. It's unclear what went wrong in the prison to allow the escape. The center has its own warden and staff and is not considered part of the larger Huron Valley Men's Facility. Selby was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1988 for the 1986 murder of W. Fred Tittle in Jackson County's Norvell Township.


10/25/99
Escaped murderer's family remembers troubled past

RIVERDALE, N.D. - As the search for escaped murderer Kyle Bell nears its second week, his aunt and uncle are reflecting on their nephew's troubled past and wondering what he might do next. "He has no love lost for us," Kim Bell said. "Now Tom and I are forced to live with locked doors in a manner we are not accustomed to, not in our state." Kyle Bell, who escaped from a prisoner transport bus in New Mexico on Oct. 13, has been in trouble since he was a child growing up in South Dakota and has an extensive criminal background. Kim Bell said she and Kyle's grandmother sought mental health counseling for him when he was only 3 years old - when she said Kyle began showing signs of abnormal sexual behavior and a violent side. "He would go from the sweetest little 3-year-old you ever saw to almost violent, uncontrolled behavior," she said. Authorities said Kyle Bell, who was sentenced to life in prison in September for killing 11-year-old Jeanna North of Fargo in June 1993, still has a charming side, especially with single women. That might aid him in his escape, police said. "I think he'd try to set up some kind of housekeeping, find somebody who would harbor him for a while, probably a woman," said Fargo police Detective Jim LeDoux, who helped investigate Jeanna's disappearance six years ago. "He's a good talker." Kyle Bell fathered five children, four with his three ex-wives and one with an Aberdeen, S.D., woman, Tom Bell said. Memories of Kyle's numerous arrests for traffic violations, burglary, assault and sex offenses while growing up in towns north of Aberdeen, S.D., are entrenched in the minds of Tom and Kim Bell. The couple lived next door to Kyle for three years in the 1970s, when Bell was living with his grandparents and his disabled father, who had divorced Kyle's mother. Tom and Kim Bell accuse their nephew of molesting their two daughters and of killing family pets. They said when Kyle Bell was an eighth-grader, he became angry at his grandfather for not taking him to a basketball game and fired a shotgun at him. The grandfather was not hurt. But throughout his life, the Bells said, Kyle was a smooth talker who could befriend anyone. "I've often likened him to Ted Bundy," said Kim Bell, referring to a serial killer executed in Florida. "If you met him, you would take him home to meet your daughter." Authorities said they don't know if anyone is helping Kyle Bell, who also was serving 30 years in prison for child molestation when he escaped while being taken to a prison in Oregon. But they're counting on Kyle Bell helping them. "In most cases the fugitives themselves help us out," said Craig Welken, an FBI agent in Fargo. "In the majority of fugitive cases, the actual arrest will come from them making a mistake and getting arrested for something like shoplifting." But they acknowledge that they have few clues about where Kyle Bell might be. "It's a big country, and it's awfully easy to get lost in," Welken said. "A person of average intelligence who uses a lot of common sense can avoid capture for a period of time, sometimes a substantial period of time." Kyle Bell's escape was featured on the television programs "America's Most Wanted," the "Today Show" and the "Rosie O'Donnell Show." But those broadcasts and a $50,000 reward for his capture produced no solid leads, and police now are turning to the Internet. Col. Jim Hughes, the commander of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, said officials are trying to persuade popular Web search engine sites, such as AltaVista and Lycos, to put icons on their home pages featuring a profile of Bell and asking for help in his capture. "We're using our imagination," Hughes said. "Anything is within the realm of possibility to keep his picture out there."

1/11/00
Child killer captured in Texas
Dropping escape charges allows extradition of child killer

BISMARCK, N.D. -- By dropping the charges associated with Kyle Bell's escape from a prison transport bus in New Mexico, federal prosecutors have helped clear the way for the convicted child killer's extradition from Texas, where he was captured Sunday, to North Dakota, where he was originally sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 11-year-old Jeanna North. Bell had been at large since escaping from the Corrections Corporation of America bus in Santa Rosa in October.
Monday's action resolved a jurisdictional snag that involved competing federal and state charges against him, said Robert Bennett, a North Dakota assistant attorney general. The woman who was living with Bell in Dallas when he was arrested Sunday said she had no idea he was an escaped child molester and killer. The woman, who has five young children, met Bell in a Dallas homeless shelter. She said she was fleeing an abusive situation. Bell, using the name Christopher Larson, found a job and apartment and lived with the woman and her children -- four preteen daughters and an 18-month-old son.
The woman said her children thought Bell was a "nice guy." In North Dakota, Bell's uncle and aunt, Tom and Kim Bell of Riverdale, were among the people that Gov. Ed Schafer called Sunday with the news that Bell had been caught in Dallas. Tom Bell is the brother of Kyle Bell's late father. Kim Bell said family members had serious questions about Kyle's behavior from the time he was 3 years old, and was taken in to be raised by his grandparents. "He came (to the grandparents' farm) with difficulties," Kim said. "He came to us in the fall (at 3 years old) and the first Christmas, he was acting out sexual positions with a Barbie doll. From that point on, we continually were seeking medical help, psychological help for him." Although Kyle Bell's aunt says his capture was "wonderful news," she does have one regret.
"Our family's saddest feeling about this is that North Dakota doesn't have the death penalty," Kim Bell said. 


9/19/99
Two Escaped Convicts Recaptured


A murderer and arsonist who broke out of a state prison two weeks after a four-time murderer escaped, prompting the governor to order a 72-hour lockdown of all state prisons, were recaptured Thursday evening, state police said.  Escaped prisoners Michael McCloskey and Anthony Yang were apprehended at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, said Trooper John Scuch of the Wyoming barracks near Wilkes-Barre.  More than 100 police officers had been combing the area for Yang, who is believed to have been the man who tried to steal money from an elderly woman at about 12:45 p.m. at a supermarket about five miles from the prison, state police said. After bystanders came to help, the man fled into the surrounding woods, Trooper Joe Lakkis said. Fingerprints taken at the scene confirmed that Yang had been present, and prison clothing was found abandoned in the wooded area.  Yang and McCloskey, both from Philadelphia, were cellmates. They escaped Monday from the state prison in Dallas, Luzerne County. Police continued to search for Johnston, a convicted killer of four, who escaped Aug. 2 from the prison in Huntingdon County. While authorities had focused their search efforts for McCloskey and Yang near the prison 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, police have been searching for Johnston in southeastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware since he broke out of the maximum-security prison at Huntingdon Aug. 2. Earlier, Gov. Tom Ridge lifted the lockdown he ordered for the state's 24 prisons following the recent escapes of the two prisoners and four-time murderer Norman Johnston. Corrections officials used the 72-hour lockdown to make sure security systems were operating properly.  Ridge also lifted the 24-hour state police patrols around the prisons, and Corrections Secretary Martin F. Horn named a four-member panel of experts to determine how the two murderers and an arsonist escaped from the maximum- and medium-security institutions. Among other measures, Horn required each prison superintendent to certify that electronic intrusion systems are set for maximum detection and minimum false alarms; two vehicles patrol prison perimeters from dusk to dawn; and inmates do not have unauthorized property in their cells.  Prison officials said McCloskey shot 70-year-old Andrew Stark to death during a lunchtime robbery of a Philadelphia bar in July 1985. Stark, who was robbed of $8 by McCloskey, died of his wounds several months later, officials said.  McCloskey was imprisoned in November 1987 at Graterford and transferred to Luzerne County in early 1988. His criminal record dates to 1975, according to corrections officials. Yang admitted setting 10 fires in 1987, which caused $3 million in damage and threatened the lives of dozens of people. He apologized at his sentencing in 1989 and his attorney called him mentally unbalanced.  Yang was initially held at Graterford and also transferred to the Dallas prison in December 1989.  Johnston was convicted in March 1980 of killing four teen-agers to cover up a multimillion-dollar burglary ring he ran with his two brothers. The film "At Close Range," starring Sean Penn, was based on the case. A $40,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Johnston's recapture.


8/8/99
Police say escaped murderer likely stole car in escape

NOTTINGHAM, Pa. -- Police found no trace today of an escaped quadruple murderer in their search of a wooded park near the Maryland border, and said the suspect likely left the area in a stolen car.  Norman Johnston, who escaped from a Pennsylvania prison earlier in the week, is considered "armed and extremely dangerous," state police Lt. David M. Presto said today.  Authorities said it was likely that he has left the Nottingham area in a silver Buick that was stolen Friday night.  Local residents described a cautious and curious mood.  "Some people are locking their door," resident Jim Murray said this morning as he stopped outside a convenience store. "There's a lot of curiosity because this is a town that doesn't get a lot of attention." Johnston, 48, was spotted talking on a pay phone Friday night but escaped into the 600-acre Nottingham County Park after a scuffle with one of the rangers, said state police Capt. Henry Oleyniczak. Johnston was convicted in 1980 of killing four teen-agers to cover up a multimillion-dollar burglary ring he ran with his two brothers. The film "At Close Range," starring Sean Penn, was based on the case.  He escaped Monday from a prison where he was serving a life sentence. Police said he opened the window in his cell, sneaked across a grassy yard and wriggled through a fence at the maximum-security complex.  

8/21/99
Escaped killer captured after 19-day manhunt

MENDENHALL, Pa. -- Norman Johnston, who killed four teenagers to cover up a family burglary ring, was captured Friday wet, scratched and exhausted in the same county where he and his brothers committed their infamous crimes. Johnston stepped out of the woods around dawn and ran right into state troopers who were investigating a 911 call from a secluded home in Mendenhall, about 130 miles from the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon where Johnston escaped Aug. 2. Officers and tracking dogs had been searching for Johnston for 19 days, chasing him through Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He ended up returning to Chester County, the area where he and two brothers stole hundreds of trucks, cars and farm equipment in the 1970s. "I think he was kind of surprised to see us," said Trooper Brian Barber. "He was tired. He knew it was daylight. He knew he didn't have any place left to run." Johnston, 48, was sentenced to life in 1980 along with older brothers Bruce and David for killing four boys involved in their burglary ring. The men feared the teenagers would tell police about their activities. Bruce Johnston also was convicted of killing his son's girlfriend and trying to kill his son, who testified against his father and uncles' ring that ran for 20 years and involved 40 or more people. The 1978 slayings were portrayed in the film "At Close Range" starring Sean Penn. Many people in the area were on edge when Johnston escaped, worried he may return to a county that was glad to be rid of him. "When they said Norman Johnston was out and about, I just went home and locked my doors," said Ed Scheffler, of Kennett Square, a town just outside Philadelphia and 200 miles from the prison. Townspeople in Mendenhall were relieved. "I'm glad he's caught. He needed catching," said Roland Norman, behind the counter at a gas station. Johnston had cut his way through a cell window and two fences to escape. An elaborate dummy left in his bunk gave him as much as a 10-hour head start. While on the run, he was seen several times in stolen cars in Pennsylvania and nearby border towns in Maryland and Delaware. Two park rangers wrestled with him at Nottingham County Park four days after his escape, but he slipped away. He was later spotted by an unarmed University of Delaware security officer, who couldn't hold him. Police began closing in on Johnston on Thursday night after he crashed a stolen car during a chase and fled into the woods. More than 100 officers and tracking dogs were scouring southeastern Chester County early Friday when the 911 call came in. Rick Mercurio and his fiancee, Ellen Baldo, had seen officers searching the woods around their home as they ate breakfast that morning. When they heard a noise on their deck, like someone had knocked something over, they called police. The officers were searching behind the house when the couple spotted Johnston walking from the woods and down their gravel driveway. They yelled to police. Johnston attempted to bolt through the bushes but slammed into a wooden fence. He began yelling "I'm not armed! I'm not armed!" as troopers grabbed him. "We couldn't believe it was him," said Trooper Glenn Blue, one of three officers who found Johnston. "He pretty much gave up. He didn't put up a fight and we're very happy about that." Johnston was scruffy, wet and unarmed when he was taken into custody. As he was led out of the Avondale state police barracks Friday morning to be taken back to prison, Johnston shook his head and refused to answer reporters' questions. State police Capt. Henry Oleyniczak said troopers had questioned him about why he stayed in the area. "He said it was hard for him to get out of the area," Oleyniczak said. "He felt like the heat was on and he couldn't get out of the area. "We asked him, 'Was it worth it?' and he said, 'Not for 20 days.' "


7/13/99
Escape attempts bring change in work-detail rules

JACKSON, NC -- Prisoners awaiting trial on first-degree rape or murder charges will no longer be eligible to work outside prison walls, the state Correction Department said Monday.  The change follows the attempted escape of three prisoners from the Odom Correctional Institute last month and the fatal shooting of one -- 22-year-old Bem Holloway -- by a correctional officer.  In addition, a prisoner who faces a combined total of 40 years in custody must spend at least one full year in confinement before qualifying for work detail. "The policy we had in place worked," Patty McQuillan, Correction Department spokeswoman, said Monday. "But we were concerned that Holloway had previous charges. We would never work death row inmates outside the walls."  Corrections came under fire when Holloway; Bennie Culver Joyner Jr., 23; and Wesley Eugene Turner, 22, were shot by guards June 28 while trying to escape from a work detail in Northampton County. Turner and Joyner were wounded.  "These inmates know that running is suicide," McQuillan said.  Holloway was in prison for the attempted murder and rape of two Raleigh women. But he also was awaiting trial on two counts of first-degree murder in separate slayings in Robeson and Bladen counties. If convicted, he could have been sentenced to death, and death row inmates are not allowed off death row. However, anyone convicted of murder and not sentenced to death or anyone convicted of rape is eligible for work release. The Odom and Caledonia prisons in Northampton and Halifax counties are the only two Tar Heel correctional prisons that allow those prisoners, called close-custody, on work details.  The Correction Department was not officially aware of those pending charges because the detainers -- paperwork informing officials of those charges -- had not arrived.  "We are asking all DAs [district attorneys] to move more quickly on filing these cases so we know who we are dealing with," McQuillan said.  According to a computer search run by Correction Department officials last week, at least 54 inmates in the state prison system face pending first-degree murder or first-degree rape charges. Only 23 of those inmates have detainers against them.  The implementation of the one-year "waiting period" allows additional time for the paperwork to run its course, McQuillan said.


6/23/99
Three inmates including one murderer at large after daring escape during transport

RALEIGH, NC -- Three work-release inmates -- including a convicted murderer -- overpowered a prison van driver Tuesday, pushing him and four other prisoners into a Southeast Raleigh street and escaping in the van.  The escapees quickly switched into civilian clothes at the nearby home of one of the convicts and fled in his father's 1979 Toyota Corolla, authorities said. They remained at large late Tuesday. Police identified the escapees -- all violent offenders -- as Samuel James Cooper, 22, who was serving 20 years for robbery with a dangerous weapon; Wayne D. Wilson, 27, serving 17 years for second-degree murder; and Demetrius Bryant, 22, serving 20 years for armed robbery. He had served a previous sentence for assaulting a police officer. The daring escape happened about 4:30 p.m. as a group of prisoners returned to the Wake Correctional Institution, a minimum-security prison at 1000 Rock Quarry Road. The seven inmates, clad in olive-green prison uniforms, had spent the day in Moore County installing school awnings, said Patty McQuillan, the Department of Correction spokeswoman. As the van left the Beltline on the Rock Quarry Road exit, it stopped at a stop sign, McQuillan said. Suddenly, the three inmates reportedly assaulted the unarmed driver, 25-year-old James Capps, a prison industries supervisor who was talking on a cellular phone, McQuillan said. "He had the phone in his hand when he was shoved out the door," McQuillan said. "Either he or the [other] inmates called for help." The four inmates not involved in the escape were unharmed. The 1997 white Dodge van was later found at Southeast Raleigh High School, police said. Capps was taken to WakeMed, where he was treated for a head injury and released several hours later. McQuillan said he was talking and alert but seemed slightly confused. When reached at WakeMed, Capps referred all questions to his employer, Correction Enterprises. Although Wilson's and Bryant's parents live in the Triangle, the escapees visited Cooper's parents, who live at 2300 Creech Road. They reportedly stole Samuel J. Cooper Sr.'s 1979 blue Toyota Corolla, said Jacqueline Cooper, who was asleep at the time. The three changed out of their prison uniforms, stealing clothes from her 17-year-old son, and left, she said. Mrs. Cooper called police. She said she visited her son Saturday and he did not mention a plan to escape. Wake Correction officials, too, were surprised that inmates who had served most of their sentences would risk escaping, said Dennis Rowland, the prison's assistant superintendent for custody and operations. The work-release program sends nearly 300 inmates daily into the community, allowing them to be re-introduced into society while they work. "The public wants the inmates to work, so we work them," Rowland said. Cooper, eligible for release in February 2002, and Bryant, eligible for release in July 2001, had been at the Wake prison for two years, correction officials said. Wilson had been at the same facility for three years and was scheduled to get out in March 2001. Rowland said the escapees had proved themselves worthy within the system, despite the seriousness of their offenses. "They led us to believe they weren't likely to do something like this," he said. Rowland said the criminals should be considered dangerous because of their violent crimes and the Tuesday assault. It is not known if the men have weapons, but he said they may be carrying a cellular phone taken from a relative. Cooper is described as 6 feet 2 inches tall and 190 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. He has a tattoo on his right arm. Wilson, 6 feet 3 inches tall, has black hair and brown eyes. He weighs about 150 pounds. Bryant is described as 6 feet tall, weighing 165 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes and a scar on his right wrist. Anyone who sees the men should call 911 or the prison at 733-7988.  Jacqueline Cooper hopes for a positive outcome for her son. "I want him to know that I love him," she said. "I'm just praying that he will turn himself in so nothing else serious will happen to him."


December 3, 1998
Killer on FBI Most Wanted List captured at her Levy hideout

BRONSON, FL - Theresa Grosso - an escaped murderer from Maryland on the FBI's most wanted list who was arrested Tuesday in Levy County - apparently picked a popular hiding spot for prisoners on the lam.  Levy Sheriff Ted Glass said Grosso, 50, who lived under the alias "Bertha Theresa Keene," was the third fugitive found in the county this year.  "I asked her why Levy County?" said Glass, who spoke to Grosso for about 5 minutes after her first appearance Tuesday. After waiving extradition in court Tuesday, Grosso is awaiting transportation back to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, where she escaped in 1979. She was serving a life sentence for the 1969 murder of a bouncer.  Before Grosso, Levy County had arrested a fugitive wanted for an 11-year-old murder in San Francisco and a escaped prisoner from Georgia.  Grosso told the sheriff that she came to the county in June because her 18-year-old son, Richard Palm, who was born in Gainesville, was returning to attend college.  Grosso has told others that she heard 16 months ago about a place to stay in Levy County while she was staying in the western United States.  According to the FBI and the Maryland State Police, the two incompatible stories point out a major part of Grosso's personality - she's a pathological liar.  Grosso's long life on the run indicates she's an accomplished fabricator of fictions.  An FBI criminal resume for Grosso lists 13 known aliases and 15 known hideouts, not including Levy County.  In 1969, Grosso was a 22-year-old stripper in Baltimore when she shot and killed bouncer Melvin Lukart, 28, after he asked to see her identification, prosecutors said. She testified at her trial that she was high on LSD and alcohol and didn't remember the shooting. In prison, she became an accomplished escape artist, breaking out a total of four times. She was quickly recaptured after her first two escapes in 1971 and 1972, but remained at large for 16 months following a 1976 prison break.  In 1979, she used wire cutters to snip a hole in a metal screen, lowered herself 25 feet using bedsheets tied together and clambered over a 15-foot fence topped with barbed wire.  She remained free until revealing her identity to a man she met on a dirt road - NE 100th Street - near the Levy County subdivision of Archer Oaks, also called Holiday Farms, between Bronson and Williston, according to law enforcement. FBI special agent Bill Hurlburt said the friend told a relative in South Carolina, who contacted the FBI Fugitive Publicity Unit in Washington, which kicked the information back down the line until it got to Gainesville.  FBI considered it a high profile case that had been featured four times on America's Most Wanted television show since 1991.  Theresa Richardson, a freelance reporter for the show, said a segment about the capture will be aired in a few weeks.  Because of Grosso's violent past, agents with the FBI and Levy County Sheriff's Office decided to lure the fugitive to a public place by playing on another of her long-term personality traits - her love of marijuana.  Grosso agreed to buy a pound of pot for $850 and accompanied her friend to the BP gas station at the intersection of U.S. 41 and County Road 335 in the Levy County community of Raleigh, not far from her mobile home.  The 4:30 p.m. bust at the crossroads surprised lifelong residents who gather there to chew the fat.  "I hadn't seen her before, and I would have noticed her because she was a stranger," said Johnny McIntire, 62, who has lived in the area all his life.  Ursula Johnson, another long-time resident who lived close to Grosso's hideout, said she may have seen the fugitive, but that people in the isolated area closely guards their privacy, asking few questions of each other.  "We try not to know people," Johnson said.


11/30/98
Texas Lawmen Search for Death Row Fugitive

More than 500 Texas lawmen are searching for a fugitive from death row who escaped from a Huntsville, Texas prison Friday.  Convicted murderer Martin Gurule, 29, broke out of the jail with six other death row inmates after midnight Thanksgiving evening by cutting a fence with a hacksaw. When the group reached a second fence, a motion detector was set off and prison guards opened fire. Six men surrendered but Gurule dodged bullets, climbed over a razor-wire perimeter fence and disappeared into the thick, snake-infested woodlands.  "We continue not to have any hard evidence that he is outside of the perimeters of the prison area. We continue not to have any hard evidence that he had outside help," Glen Castlebury, Director of Public Information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told CNS.  "Therefore, while investigators and other law enforcement continue to work their magic statewide, we here at the prison continue to concentrate on those 17,000 mostly heavily wooded acres surrounding the prison compound where we believe the man is still in hiding," Castlebury said. Castlebury said that with search dogs running 24 hours and surveillance helicopters also searching the rural area, it's only a matter of time before they close in on Gurule.  "Remember this, the purpose of running the dogs down the tracks, yes, while we would love to flush him out and capture him, the real purpose is to contain him in that perimeter because he cannot move. If he moves the dogs will find him," Castlebury explained. "As long as he is contained, time is on our side, and we have all the patience in the world. A person can only hold out there for so long with total sleep deprivation because of the dogs running 24 hours," he said. Also on the law's side is evidence that Gurule is injured. "We know Gurule may be injured, we found blood outside the night he went over. We don't know if he was hit by gunfire or if he cut himself on the razor wire, we don't how bad it is," said Castlebury.  Castlebury added that they have no idea what Gurule's condition is or his frame of mind. "We don't attempt to psychoanalyze him, we just attempt to keep our patience and bide our time," said Castlebury. Texas prison officials are warning returning Thanksgiving holiday travelers to be alert for Gurule. In addition, there are residential rural subdivisions in the search perimeter which may be in danger of being invaded by Gurule.  Yesterday afternoon, recognizing that there may have been people gone for the holidays, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice set up car check points at the roads leading into the area and all roads leading into the rural subdivisions.  "We are stopping every car and informing the people as to what to look for in the way of break-ins and to check if anything was moved on their property," Castlebury said. "We're also checking their cars–inside, outside and underside of all cars coming and going just because there's always that chance if, at an early time he got into a vacant house or into a vacant vehicle and now some innocent party could be driving that vehicle out of the area, so we're stopping and searching them," he explained. Gurule is the first death row inmate to escape in Texas since 1934 when a member of the "Bonnie and Clyde" gang briefly gained freedom before being recaptured and executed.  "This going into our fourth day now, it's not unusual," Castlebury said. "We don't have that many escapes a year, but out of all the ones we have, we always capture them," he said.  Castlebury said most of them don't get far from the prison. "Over the years we've built up a body of experience and the vast majority do not even get off the prison property," he said. "We've seen many of them last three, four, five days," Castlebury said of the attempted escapes. Gurule was sentenced to death on October 12,1992 for shooting Minas "Mike" Piperis while robbing a restaurant Piperis owned with his brother. Gurule was also charged with the killing of restaurant worker Anthony Staton, but the case never went to trial.


10/10/98
Police protect man's wife, son

GULFPORT, MS - News that accused murderer Mario Giovanni Centobie had escaped from an Alabama jail Friday morning forced Coast law enforcement to tighten security around the former Harrison County firefighter's estranged family.  His second jailbreak in four months also renewed a nightmare for those who know him. They worried that he might return to the Coast to try to seek revenge against his former wife and son. Centobie is serving a 40-year sentence for kidnapping his former wife, and those who know him say he can be abusive, jealous and violent. So, as the information about the escape from the Etowah County jail in Gadsden, Ala., spread Friday, Gulfport patrolmen hustled Cheryl Centobie and her son from Bayou View Elementary School, where she works as a teacher's assistant.  While it was a normal day at the school, there was an added police presence because of the danger Centobie posed. "We are doing what needs to be done to keep people safe," Gulfport police Chief George Payne Jr. said. Centobie, who police consider extremely dangerous, was convicted for kidnapping his wife and son in 1996, and sentenced to 40 years. In June, he escaped, kidnapping a Jones County sheriff and deputy who were escorting him, and, police say, killing another policemen and wounding another in Alabama before he was captured.  The elementary school children weren't told about the extra police, nor did they appear to be concerned, because D.A.R.E. officers are always in the classrooms, said Cephus Jackson, principal at Bayou View. Jackson said his staff was concerned about ensuring the safety and welfare of the mother and her son. "They are part of our family, and we are doing all we can do to support them," Jackson said. "This is a time of tribulation for them."  Jackson said the doors were locked, and all the children left school through the front door as Harrison County Sheriff's Department helicopter hovered overhead.  Payne supervised the children. "I wanted to make sure that there were no problems and panic," he said. "I wanted to assure everyone that the situation was being handled." Police and others who know Centobie were worried that he might return to the Coast.  Sgt. Joe Gazzo, spokesman for the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol, said patrols along Interstate 10 would be increased, but there would not be any road blocks.  "Right now we do not know how (Centobie) is traveling," Gazzo said. "I think the possibility is great that he might be headed this way, based on past history."  Four months ago, Centobie, an expert in the outdoors, dodged authorities for 11 days before being captured on July 5 in Jackson County.  


7/20/98
Smashing Pumpkins Catch Escaped Murderer At Free Concert

Minneapolis, MN - A free concert staged by the Smashing Pumpkins Friday night in Minneapolis drew more than 100,000 people, including a convicted murderer who escaped from prison to attend the show.  A spokesperson for the Pumpkins confirmed that Pamela Keary, who was convicted of second degree murder for her part in the stabbing and stoning of a Somalian immigrant, walked away from the minimum security facility where she was serving a 12-year sentence before heading to the show. Keary was arrested that evening at the concert.  According to the Minneapolis "Star Tribune," Keary actually told her fellow inmates that she was heading to the Pumpkins show before leaving the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Shakope, which reportedly does not have walls or fences surrounding it.


7/17/96
Escapee calls radio station to apologize

PLATTSBURGH, NY - A convicted murderer who escaped from jail while awaiting sentencing for his wife's death has apologized for his flight from the law.  Darrell Brand, now being held in Franklin County Jail following his four-day escape from Clinton County Jail, told WIRY radio in Plattsburgh Tuesday that he was sorry for leaving the jail.  "I would like to apologize to the people of Plattsburgh, N.Y., for their inconvenience and any violation that occurred while the police agencies searched for my whereabouts, whether it was in their car or their homes," Brand said, calling the police gun-toting thugs. He also said he was sorry for trouble he may have caused workers at the Clinton County Jail.  Brand escaped from the jail July 4 while awaiting sentencing.


4/30/96
Escaped Rhode Island killer captured after 10-hour manhunt
'Gruesome murderer' Eugene Travis tracked down 'before he struck again'

Escaped double killer Gene E. Travis -- called a poster child for the death penalty by a former prosecutor -- was arrested last night ending a 10-hour manhunt.  The killer, a Freetown native, was captured in Providence, about 9:30 p.m. after police, using dogs, flushed him out on Pocasset Street in the city's Silver Lake section.  Details were sketchy at press time, but police throughout the region breathed a sigh of relief.  "I'm glad they caught him before he struck again," Freetown Detective Sgt. Alan Alves said. "He's a very dangerous individual."  State Trooper Eric Swenson said state police were scouring the Fall River and Freetown areas in the hours before the capture. "Everyone was very glad he was caught. Everyone was out there looking for him because there was a chance he could have come this way," Trooper Swenson said. The 54-year-old escaped convict was serving two life sentences at the Rhode Island state prison in Cranston at the time of the escape: one for the 1985 abduction and murder of a Fall River woman and another for the murder of a Rhode Island woman a day later.  "If I had a poster child for the death penalty, he would be it," said former Bristol County District Attorney Ronald A. Pina, who had interviewed Mr. Travis after his arrest for the Fall River slaying.  "He was just an animal. He was proud of what he did," Mr. Pina said. Department of Corrections spokesman A.T. Wall said Mr. Travis was present for a 7 a.m. head count, went to breakfast with other inmates, then reported to his job picking up trash on prison grounds at about 8:30 a.m.  He was last seen in the prison yard at 9:15 a.m. He was reported missing at 11:30 a.m. when a guard said he had not returned to his cell and was not seen at lunch with other inmates who had been working in the yard, Mr. Wall said.  At a 5 p.m. press conference at the prison's administration building, George A. Vose, Director of Corrections, said three trucks entered the prison recreation yard yesterday morning. Pressed by reporters, Mr. Vose said prison officials "are trying to determine how and why he escaped," but he suspects Mr. Travis escaped from the recreation yard.  "That is where he apparently left from," Mr. Vose said. In a prison conference room, Mr. Wall, assistant director, said a garbage truck and two delivery trucks entered the confined recreation yard.  "We've been in touch with the drivers of those trucks," said Mr. Wall, refusing to discuss if the drivers were (knowingly or unknowingly) involved in the getaway.  Mr. Vose said roughly 50 correctional officers were on duty at the time Mr. Travis escaped.  Mr. Wall said that no one has escaped from maximum security in more than 10 years.  There was one report that Mr. Travis was seen driving a charcoal gray, late-model Saab northbound on Route 2 in Cranston at about 1 p.m., less than a mile from the state prison, Rhode Island officials said. A gray-haired woman who appeared to be in her 60s was in the passenger's seat. In Freetown, where Mr. Travis' father once lived, news of his escape mobilized police.  "We want to warn people, primarily those in the retail outlets, that he is on the loose," said Freetown Chief Edward Mello, prior to Mr. Travis' capture.  "He's a very dangerous individual," said Fall River Chief Francis McDonald.  Mr. Travis, who spent most of his life behind bars, had been released from the Massachusetts state prison in Walpole just 33 days when he abducted and stabbed to death Simone Auger from the Fall River video store owned by her parents in 1985. Her body was found in Tiverton, R.I.  While police were still searching for Ms. Auger, the next day he abducted Janice Pinelli, 42, from her North Kingstown, R.I. shoe store. Her body was found with 37 stab wounds.  "He's just a gruesome murderer," said former North Kingstown, R.I., Police Chief John Leyden, now a U.S. marshal. "There is no rehabilitation for Gene Travis."  Mr. Pina called him "an animal who would kill in two seconds ... He was proud of what he did. This is a guy who kills for the sake of killing." In a jailhouse interview with WJAR-TV broadcast Nov. 4, 1994, Mr. Travis offered this explanation for the 1985 killings: "I was broke and I just had to go out and do what I do best. A human life doesn't mean too much to me."  Even as the search for the killer continued yesterday, current and former law enforcement officials in Massachusetts were questioning how he could be allowed to escape.  "My first words out were, 'How did it happen?' It didn't make sense," Mr. Leyden said. "It didn't make sense at all."  Mr. Pina said he couldn't understand how the killer could slip out of prison undetected.  "This is the ultimate first-degree murderer," Mr. Pina said. "This is a man who should be under constant lock and key."

A Profile of Murderer Escapees


 

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