Local News

Edgecombe escapees captured in West Virginia

Posted April 17, 2009 10:37 a.m. EDT
Updated April 17, 2009 4:36 p.m. EDT

— West Virginia authorities captured three inmates on Friday who escaped from the Edgecombe County Detention Center Thursday night, Edgecombe Sheriff James Knight said.

The trio robbed a bank in Marmet, W.Va., and was arrested after a brief police chase, authorities said. Marmet is more than 380 miles from Tarboro.

Knight said the inmates were able to pry iron rods that bolt their bunk beds to the floors of their cells, and they used the rods to break open a fire exit in the jail. The door wasn't equipped with an alarm, he said.

The inmates ran out the door with a flimsy mattress, which they tossed atop the barbed-wire fence to help them scale the fence, he said. They then found a white GMC pickup truck with the keys left inside parked on a nearby street and drove off, he said.

Mia Eson said she was awake late Thursday when she heard her husband's truck start up and pull out of the driveway.

"I heard the truck coming alongside of the house, and I thought there was no way any of us was driving that truck," Eson said.

The family lives on McNair Road, which is separated by some woods from the county jail. She said her husband forgot his keys in the truck, and now they don't know when they'll get the vehicle back.

"If they did get something, at least they just got the truck and didn't try to break into the house," she said.

Detention officers discovered the escape, which occurred shortly before midnight, within seven to eight minutes and issued an alert that notified all residences and businesses within a 2-mile radius, Knight said.

Eson said her family didn't receive the alert until 1:30 a.m., however. She and her husband found about about the escape when they called police to report the stolen pickup.

The inmates involved in the escape and their pending charges are as follows:

  • David Lee Cox, 29, felony conspiracy, from Fayetteville
  • Anthony Artrip, 37, narcotics violation, from Ashland, Ky.
  • James Butler, 38, possession of a firearm by a felon, from Raleigh

America's Most Wanted features an Anthony "Tony" Artrip, of Ashland on its Web site. He was one of the U.S. Marshals' Top 15 Most Wanted fugitives, having spent three months robbing banks and eluding the law in Kentucky before he was captured in 2007, according to the site.

Knight said Artrip had been flagged as an escape risk and was on "high watch" in the jail, where he was awaiting sentencing.

Investigators are looking into whether detention officers aided in the escape or were negligent, the sheriff said.

Authorities also are investigating 32 other inmates who might have conspired in the jailbreak, he said. Many inmates stood in front of security cameras to distract detention officers and block their view of the escape, he said.

"They were sitting around in what they call the day room area, and that's how they were able to block the camera. All of them (were) sitting there, like they were looking at someone playing a card game," Knight said.

The eight fire doors in the detention center will be reinforced and equipped with alarms, he said. Authorities also will inspect all bunks to ensure they are securely bolted to the floor, he said.

"I'm very grateful no one was hurt," he said.

The jail is on Anaconda Road in Tarboro and can house up to 255 inmates. The facility was updated in 1999, according to its Web site.

Knight said the last escape from the jail occurred in April 2006. In that incident, an inmate climbed the fence but was quickly caught, he said.