Local News

Latest Breakout Highlights History Of Escapes At Vance County Jail

Posted January 26, 2004

— An inmate still was on the loose Monday night after the latest escape from the Vance County jail.

Four inmates who also escaped Saturday were captured. But there are new questions about the frequency of escapes at the jail and what the county is doing about it.

Several inches of snow and ice have hampered the search for the remaining fugitive from the jail break. Though 21-year-old John Williams remains at large, the Vance County sheriff does not think the snow has covered his trail.

"I believe he's local. . . he's lying low," Vance County Sheriff Thomas Breedlove said. "(With the) weather, conditions, he's still with us."

As the five inmates were being moved from one part of the jail to another Saturday, they beat a guard, knocked down another, and climbed through a rooftop hatch.

They scaled a razor-wire fence and ran to freedom.

Six hours later, sheriff's deputies surrounded and raided a nearby house, where they found four of the inmates hiding in the attic.

Breedlove said he is considering administrative action against the county employees who are responsible for the escape, which raised more questions about security at the jail.

A dozen inmates have escaped from the facility in the last four years. Two walked through an open fire door. Three overpowered a jailer, and seven got out after they started a fire to distract guards.

Breedlove said the problem stems from low pay for the jailers.

"Well, we get one trained, and three leave, and it's a vicious turnover cycle," Breedlove said. "A cycle that goes on and on. Until we get the pay up, it'll continue."

The sheriff not only has to focus on jail security, but also on finding the fugitive.

He credited a citizen's tip for capturing the first four inmates. He hopes another one will lead officers to Williams.

Vance County Manager Jerry Aycock told WRAL that a pay boost for county jailers comes before the commissioners almost every budget year. Aycock said commissioners approved a small increase recently, and Breedlove's push for better pay is expected to be placed in the coming budget.

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