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Four Escape From Louisiana Prison

January 25, 1999

ANGOLA, La. (AP) _ Roadblocks went up and a chase team equipped with thermal detectors and night-vision goggles began a search for four convicted killers who bolted from a Louisiana prison.

But it was the sharp eyes of 15-year-old Matt Tibbett who foiled the inmates’ plans after spotting two of the men Sunday while out deer hunting alone.

The ill-fated escape _ which left one inmate dead and the other three in custody _ began at 2 p.m. CST when the men, armed with two smuggled guns, took a prison maintenance worker hostage and left the prison grounds in a truck.

The inmates made it through a gate at the 18,000-acre Louisiana State Penitentiary to a water tower, where they ditched the truck and tied up the maintenance supervisor with duct tape, Warden Burl Cain said. The foursome then fled on foot.

It took only minutes for the hostage to free himself and alert the nearest guard post. By then the inmates had about a half-hour head start, Cain said.

Law enforcement from surrounding areas immediately set up roadblocks. The prison’s chase team, armed with night-vision goggles, thermal detectors and packs of dogs, launched a recovery effort for the four men, each serving a life sentence for murder.

Others monitored the Mississippi River, which borders the prison grounds to the east, while three helicopters searched from above.

About this time, 15-year-old Tibbett was deer hunting on his family’s property, and noticed two men sitting on the ground about 50 yards away. Not knowing about the prison break, he kept walking.

A short while later, his brother-in-law, who had heard of the escape, met up with the teen. The pair alerted law enforcement officials and soon, bloodhounds were on the trail of inmates Roy McFall and Jerry Davis.

Davis later said when McFall saw the dogs, he turned to him and said, ``I’m not going back to prison, they’re about to catch us,″ according to Cain.

McFall, 40, then shot himself in the head, and later died at a hospital. He had been serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the June 1983 stabbing of a Texas woman.

Davis, 39, was taken into custody without incident.

The chase team then found and began following the second set of tracks.

Donald Wooley, 35, and Darrell Crider, 37, were found at 7 p.m. about 200 yards from where McFall and Davis had been huddling in brush near Tunica Bayou. The inmates surrendered without incident.

Cain said prison officials would review the escape to find any breakdowns in prison policy. Twenty walk-through metal detectors have already been ordered, which should prevent guns being smuggled inside, he said.

``We’re going to have to really investigate and find out how that happened,″ Cain said. ``We can’t afford for that to happen, not at this prison.″

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