Local News

Chatham Jail Break Was Planned, Authorities Believe

Posted February 5, 2008

— Authorities on Tuesday scaled back their search for an inmate who escaped late Monday from the Chatham County Detention Center. They began an active investigation into how the escape was possible.

Stewart Wendell Baldwin, 30, of 130 Mann's Chapel Road, and four other inmates escaped after overpowering detention officers at the facility. Authorities said they believe the escape was planned.

"When [a detention officer] entered the cell block, he was overpowered by five people who were hiding," said Maj. Gary Blankenship with the Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

The inmates went for the officer's keys and radio, changed clothes and left through a side door and used a coat to scale a tall fence topped with razor wire.

"Obviously, when these things happen, you have to evaluate what occurred down there, and part of it is looking at our internal security system," Blankenship said.

Authorities were able to capture the four other inmates near the jail, but authorities believe Baldwin might have made it out of the perimeter that police established.

"Right now, it's like a needle in a haystack," Blankenship said.

"He has family in North Chatham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro," he added. "Honestly, he could be in those areas. We've contacted those jurisdictions."

Baldwin was being held at the center on felony drug charges and a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon. Authorities said they do not think Baldwin is a danger to the public unless he is approached.

Anyone with information about Baldwin's whereabouts is asked to call the Chatham County Sheriff's Office at 919-542-2811 or their local law enforcement officials.

Three of the other four inmates – Adrian Carlos Reyes, 24, Kyle Evan Kettrey, 22, and Brian Keith Blackwell, 32 –  were arrested at a traffic checkpoint Tuesday morning.

The trio was captured north of Pittsboro on U.S. Highway 15-501 after they went to a woman's house and asked her for a ride to Chapel Hill. Authorities were investigating whether the woman had a connection to any of the men.

A fourth inmate, James Austin Tarrer, 16, was detained not long after the escape, authorities said.

All four were taken to Central Prison in Raleigh, where they were being held Tuesday.

Seven schools in Chatham County operated on a two-hour delay Tuesday morning as authorities searched for Baldwin.

"I'm glad they did that," said parent Julie Roland. "I think that was the right thing to do. I think if they wouldn't have done that, they'd have a lot of angry parents."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Feb 5, 2008

    Planned!!!!!! Imagine that!!! No kidding, Sherlock!

  • piperchuck Feb 5, 2008

    Dataclerk: "Talk to you local fire department about locking doors with people inside etc. and I am sure they will tell you. You do not have to belive me."

    You're obviously lacking basic knowledge that makes discussion with you on this topic impossible. In case you're interested in learning, it's really a simple concept, there is door hardware that can be locked on the outside, but lets people open the door from the inside. Expand your horizons and go learn about it.

  • Closed II Feb 5, 2008

    "Prison Escape Was Planned"


    Gee, ya think?

  • dukebbfan Feb 5, 2008

    Prison break was planned. DUH what prisoner wants to stay in jail if they think they could get out.

  • press1foringles Feb 5, 2008

    Wow...another Baldwin brother in trouble with the law..shocker!

  • kimmimom Feb 5, 2008

    yes, but did he have priors? He may have been convicted of other crimes before even if the crime he is currently in jail for he has not be tried yet.

  • 0 Tolerance aka Ms.Turner Feb 5, 2008

    I have to say that the jail/prison system is a joke as far as "rehabilitation" goes. It's not as luxurious as three hots and a cot sounds. You are lucky to get a blanket on cold cemment floor. People complain about our tax dollars going for inmates but they should ask what the money is really being used for.
    I know this guy, he has children and is far from dangerous. He made some bada choices and needs to own up and pay for them but he isn't the dangerous person you might think he is.

  • WRAL is joe_dirt Feb 5, 2008

    Looks like Coolio

  • Lblum Feb 5, 2008

    I'm just trying to figure out what the 16 year old is there for. Found this:
    From 2007, probation violation maybe? Scares me when I have a son almost this age.

  • Thinkb4uspeak Feb 5, 2008

    And keep in mind there is a major distiction between jail and prison. Jail is where you wait while you undergo the judicial process.The escapee had not been convicted of these charges, his cases were pending, therefore his punishment is not due yet. Innocent before until proven guilty remember. Many of the people in jail haven't even been convicted of a crime; they've simply been accused and can not post bail. Punishment should be reserved for guilty verdicts don't you think? You don't deserve punishment in jail (pretrial) for alleged crimes or accusations as many posters ignorantly suggest. That is like suggesting the Duke Lacrosse players should have been punished like rapist in jail for a crime that they were only accused of committing.