Local News

Inmate steals bagel truck in escape

Posted July 11, 2009 7:54 a.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2009 8:04 a.m. EDT

— A man serving a maximum 15-year sentence as a convicted habitual felon escaped Friday night after stealing a box truck and cash from a Chapel Hill restaurant where he worked.

Roderick Lee Baldwin, 45, was working at Bagels on the Hill, at 630 Weaver Dairy Road, as part of a work-release program, said Keith Acree, spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Correction. Baldwin stole $330 and drove away from the restaurant in box truck last night, police said.

Corrections and local law enforcement were searching for him Saturday, Acree said.

The missing truck is a white 2003 Ford with North Carolina commercial license plate number BT-6257.

Corrections officials said Baldwin is from Chapel Hill and has family living there.

Anyone who has seen the truck or Baldwin should call local law enforcement or the Orange Correctional Center at 919-732-9301.

Mike Sedlak, co-owner of Bagels on the Hill, said Baldwin was one of the best employees the business has ever had.

“He pretty much took on everything we asked him to, and he loved doing it all,” Sedlak said. “He had no problem with anything.”

Baldwin had finished up his shift around 10 p.m. Friday. Sedlak was in his office at the time.

“Next thing I know, he’s gone,” Sedlak said.

Baldwin being held in the Orange County Correctional Center, a minimum-custody state prison with 182 inmates in Hillsborough.

He had 11 convictions from 2000 in Orange and Forsyth counties, including two as a habitual felon and others for forgery, fraud, credit card theft and larceny.

Baldwin had worked 20 to 30 hours a week at the bagel shop since March 2009. Acting Orange County DOC Superintendent Armstead Hodges said Baldwin was quiet, courteous and "followed all the rules."

His expected release date was June 4, 2011, and he has committed nine infractions while in prison, all before 2005, according to DOC records.

Thirty-two inmates at the Orange County Correctional Center are on work release at several businesses, Acree said. Employers receive training from the DOC in how to supervise inmates. To qualify, inmates must have long period of good behavior and be within five years of release.

"They're getting close to their release, and we're trying to transition them back to society," Hodges said.

The goal is to let inmates get some job experience and to teach them a work ethic, Acree said. Their paycheck goes to defray the costs of their incarceration and prosecution and to a trust fund they can access once they are released.

An inmate last escaped from the Orange County work-release program in June 2006, Hodges said. He was apprehended within 24 hours.

Baldwin has a history of fraud convictions in Wake, Orange and Forsyth counties dating to 1982, according to DOC records.

He escaped from custody once before in Orange County a little more than 20 years ago – on Jan. 1, 1989.

According to DOC records, Baldwin was then serving a maximum 5-year sentence for felony breaking-and-entering and fraud convictions in January 1988. He was given a concurrent 30-day sentence for the escape, followed by probation after his Aug. 11, 1989 release.