St. Mary

Feb 5, 2014 7:05 PM by Letitia Walker

Update: Deputies can't comment on notification process following inmate escape

Days after two inmates escaped from the St. Mary Parish jail in Centerville, deputies say they can't tell us the timetable when it comes to notifying residents, other law enforcement agencies, and media outlets when an inmate escapes.

KATC filed a series of public document requests after questioning why it took at least four hours after the inmates were missing for anyone to be notified. "There are some questions that should directly be answered. I'm basing it on the fact that I, as the chief law enforcement officer of the City of Patterson, was not notified. My citizens were in danger. Someone should have done more to notify us," said Patterson Police Chief Patrick Lasalle.

Timeline we have been able to verify so far:
10:30 pm: Estimated time inmates escape, according to St. Mary Parish deputies.
4:00 am: Time deputies notice they were missing while serving breakfast, according to the warrant issued.
shortly before 8:00 am (estimated time): Superintendent Donald Aguillard is notified about escape and puts schools on notice.
8:06 am: Duval Arthur, St. Mary Parish's Office of Homeland Security director was notified.
8:34 am: Viewers send us text message alerts that say inmates have escaped from the "First Call" system.
9:21 am: Press release is sent to media outlets after KATC questions the public information officer about the escape.

Sunday night, deputies say Christopher Horton and Joshua Folks made their way into the ceiling of the jail and through the roof, before climbing down a wall. They were discovered missing around 4:00 a.m. Monday.

According to the warrant for the pair, they were staying in cells next to one another. When a corrections officer tried to serve them food in the morning, and the inmates didn't respond, the warrant says deputies realized there had been a jail break. Cement blocks had allegedly been put in both beds to look like bodies, and holes were been made in the ceiling which led them to the roof. Video surveillance allegedly showed the inmates running toward the train tracks. They were found near the train tracks in Lafayette.

Christopher Horton is set to go to trial in April for the first-degree murder of his own brother. He was originally deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial, a decision, that was later reversed. Joshua Folks was being held in connection with a Walmart theft ring. Other law enforcement agencies tell us Folks has a reputation for injuring himself in order to escape. They say he has cut himself, and even ate his own skin, in order to go to a less secure hospital.

Public Information Officer Traci Landry says after the inmates were noticed missing at 4:00 a.m., they immediately put the jail on lockdown and searched the facility and grounds. After not finding them in the surrounding woods, an alert was issued to area agencies, the inmates were listed as escapees with the National Crime Information Center, schools were notified, and the parish's First Call emergency system was implemented.

We asked Landry what times specifically were all those steps taken, and what was the department's policy regarding when those notifications are sent out. We asked for a copy of the policy, including when media should have been alerted. Despite asking several times, the most specific response we've received regarding notification times is the following: "use of the parish's First Call system was set in motion following a search of the facility in its entirety, top to bottom."

The Sheriff's Office says specific details of the protocol used if an inmate escapes is part of the jail's security program. Deputies contend that public disclosure of such details would pose security risks at the jail, which they believe would increase the potential harm to the public.

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