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Escapees Caught in New York After Making ‘Things-To-Do’ List

June 4, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two men wrote themselves a list of things-to-do after breaking out of a Vermont jail, including ``go to New York,″ then left their itinerary in a stolen car where police found it.

New York is where the pair was arrested Tuesday following eight days of freedom.

James Lertola, 20, of Mendon, Vt., and Brian Witham, 25, of Winslow, Maine, escaped May 27 over the razor-wired wall of the Marble Valley prison in Rutland, Vt.

At some point they wrote a list, which read, ``Drive to Maine, get safer place to stay, buy guns, get Marie, get car _ Dartmouth, do robbery, go to New York.″

It was a bus trip taken by one escapee’s girlfriend that ultimately led to the pair’s capture, said police.

Six days after their escape the pair was in Dartmouth, Mass., seated in a stolen car, when a police officer approached. They ran, leaving the list behind.

On Monday police were told Lertola’s girlfriend boarded a bus headed for New York. Vermont state police called the girl’s parents and asked them to meet police at the bus’ next stop in Manchester, where they persuaded her to get off.

Meanwhile, federal agents and New York police waited for the bus to arrive in New York. When it showed up shortly before 1 a.m., Lertola was spotted waiting near the platform and was arrested after a brief chase. He told police Witham was waiting in a nearby bar where officers arrested him without incident.

Lertola was awaiting trial on charges of escaping in January while serving time for a 1994 purse snatching. Witham was awaiting trial on armed robbery charges.

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