1 Miss. inmate still at large after jail escape

Published 11:26 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Authorities in south Mississippi were searching Tuesday for one inmate still at large after eight prisoners apparently managed to chip through a jailhouse wall with an improvised chisel and escape.

Seven of the men were captured within 19 hours of the jailbreak, authorities said. The only one still on the lam was Eric Ball, 19, who had been jailed since June on charges of breaking and entering.

Guards at the Marion-Walthall Correctional Facility realized the eight men were missing just before dawn Monday during a head count. The men had been staying in a room of about 30 inmates.

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Deputies found a piece of a bunk bed that had been fashioned into a chisel, which had apparently been used to chip through a solid wall on the jail’s south side, Marion County Sheriff Berkley Hall said. The escape might have been made easier, because razor wire on that side of the jail had been taken down to accommodate a jail expansion project, Hall said.

“They chiseled right through it. Imagine, you have a regular block, then (steel) rods through it and then fill it with concrete. That’s what they dug through,” he said.

The seventh inmate was captured Monday night. Derrick Rainey, 21, was arrested at a motel in south Hattiesburg, about 34 miles away, authorities said. Three of the men were found about 12 miles away, north of downtown Columbia, and three on the side of a highway just south of Little Rock, Ark., roughly 370 miles away.

All of the men are expected to face additional charges, but none had been charged by Tuesday morning.

Search crews were extremely concerned about the break because one inmate was awaiting trial on capital murder charges, and another was serving a life sentence for a homicide conviction. The other men were jailed on charges or convictions ranging from drug possession to larceny.

“I don’t like the community feeling like they can’t go out in the yard and rake the leaves, you know? So, it’s a big relief,” Hall said.