The damage to the Russell County Jail that enabled three inmates to escape the building Thursday derives from a flaw in its 1991 construction, Sheriff Heath Taylor said Friday.
The sheriff declined to specify the problem, but said his department is re-evaluating the building’s security after the three escaped about 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
They were not gone long: Charles Smith, 41, was caught just before noon Friday in a vacant house on Ramsey Road in Ladonia, where authorities acting on a tip found him hiding in the attic and subdued him when he came out fighting, said Taylor, who believed Smith hiked from the jail to Ladonia.
Adam W. Barringer, 30, and John Curtis Hendrix, 27, were captured about 4:20 p.m. Friday when a deputy recognized them heading south on U.S. 431 in another man’s car, the sheriff said. The officer pulled the car over in front of the Marathon truck stop just south of the highway’s interchange with U.S. 280, not far from the jail from which they escaped the day before.
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The driver was detained on suspicion he knew the two were escapees and was aiding them, said Taylor, adding that at least three people have been arrested for helping the escapees, each of whom had changed out of his jail uniform.
Smith was wearing Army camouflage apparently obtained when he broke into a soldier’s home, Taylor said. Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith said neighbors alerted police to the break-in.
Barringer was convicted of murder last week. He faced life in prison with no chance of parole for the October 2010 fatal shooting of Keith William Farmer, 28. His sentencing was scheduled for next month.
Hendrix was being held on theft and marijuana charges. Charles Smith, who tried to escape the jail in December, was held for burglary, court records state.
All three now face charges of first-degree escape.
Taylor said that once they got out of the building Thursday, the three inmates climbed over the fence at the rear of the jail, sustaining only minor cuts from the razor wire.
A construction crew left a ladder outside the jail the inmates may have used, the sheriff said.
The three then ran around the south side of the jail compound, showing up on security cameras. They dashed across U.S. 431, where a motorist saw them and called 911.
Deputies monitoring the surveillance cameras could see that the men wore gray sweatpants and tank top undershirts under their jail uniforms, the sheriff said.
“How they got out of the facility is still the ongoing, internal investigation,” the sheriff added. “Right now, we just can’t say the details.”
Taylor promised to divulge more during a news conference set for 10 a.m. Monday.
Authorities on both sides of the Chattahoochee River got involved in the search. Taylor credited Phenix City police, Alabama state troopers, U.S. marshals, Columbus police and the Harris County sheriff’s office with helping in the manhunt.
Read more in Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer.