Eddie Ellis, 23, refused to tell investigators how he escaped from a prison transport van on Tuesday afternoon, but told them he could do it again if they locked him up in handcuffs in a room by himself.
"We handcuffed him just like he was (on Tuesday)," Maj. John Farmer of the Wilson County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday. "In less than four minutes, he handed the handcuffs back up underneath the door to us."
In jail facing murder charges connected with a 2004 shooting death, authorities said, Ellis was on his way from the Wilson County Detention Center to a doctor's appointment when he somehow managed to escape from the van shortly before 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
Seven hours later, Ellis was found under an abandoned home on Tarboro Street. More than 150 law enforcement officers from several different agencies assisted with the search, and nearby day-care centers and nursing homes were put on lockdown.
Investigators said they are not sure how Ellis has been able to escape. They said he is not slipping out of the restraints, but that he is actually unlocking them.
"The only way you should be able to do it is with a handcuff key," Farmer said.
Authorities searched Ellis throroughly, but did not find anything he could possibly use to pick the lock, authorities said. They said they do not believe the restraints are defective.
"He was handcuffed textbook style, and he can still get out of it," Farmer said. "How it happens, we don't know, we don't know."
Wilson County investigators said they have never known of an inmate to get free in the same manner as Ellis.
The sheriff's office is also reviewing its transport policies, but Farmer said Ellis had been properly restrained. However, Farmer did say that the prisoner was not being watched as closely as he should have been.
Ellis was being held at a county jail, but escape is also a growing problem at North Carolina prisons. So far this year, 18 inmates have escaped; only one is still on the loose -- an arsonist who escaped from a facility in Guilford County earlier this week. In 2005, 33 inmates escaped, one of who is still on the loose.
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