Warrants Issued for Woman, Three Inmates in Chopper Escape
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) _ Arrest warrants were issued Friday for a woman who hijacked a helicopter and for three inmates she plucked from a South Carolina prison, while authorities spread their intensive search beyond the state’s borders.
″They are extremely dangerous individuals,″ said Greenville County Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown.
″They will not hesitate to use violence. We don’t want to get violent, but I can assure you that we will meet violence with violence.″
The woman, who had visited one of the inmates repeatedly in recent weeks, was identified by the FBI as Joyce Bailey Mattox, 40, an unemployed textile worker of Wellford.
She was charged with air piracy in a federal warrant, said Special Agent Robert Ivey, head of the FBI in South Carolina.
Mrs. Mattox is accused of hijacking a two-seated helicopter Thursday, forcing the pilot to land at Perry Correctional Institution near Pelzer and picking up three inmates, including a convicted murderer.
State warrants charged Mrs. Mattox with aiding and abetting an escape and assault and battery with intent to kill in the shooting of a prison guard.
The inmates - William Ballew, 36, Jesse Glenn Smith, 42, and James Rodney Leonard, 20 - were charged in state warrants with escape and assault and battery with intent to kill the guard, said Don Dease, regional administrator for the state Department of Corrections.
Investigators refused to reveal what led them to suspect the woman but said her frequent visits to Smith at the prison confirmed her connection to the inmate, they said. The former Startex Mills worker was then identified by the employees of Palmetto Helicopter where she rented the chopper, Brown said.
Ms. Mattox’s last visit to Smith was Dec. 13, he said. She also had visited several other inmates at other prisons in the past, officials said.
All four suspects were charged with wounding guard William T. Wade because investigators have not confirmed who fired the shot that struck him in the mouth, Brown said.
Wade, who was shot as he was trying to pull the inmates from the departing helicopter, was in good condition Friday following surgery for a fractured jaw and several missing teeth, Dease said.
The search for the fugitives was expanded Friday to cover the entire state, and Ivey said authorities across the nation have been alerted.
″We’ve had agents and officers working throughout the night, not only here in South Carolina but also in numerous (other) states who have been conducting leads and interviews,″ Ivey said. ″Numerous leads are in, but it’s too early to tell what the pertinence of those leads may be.″
″We really have no concrete leads as to where they are, but we still believe they are in South Carolina,″ Brown added.
Investigators do not know if the four were still using the 1977 Dodge Aspen in which they were last seen.
Leonard was serving a life sentence for murder; Ballew, 23 years and three months for armed robbery, contempt of court and attempted escape, and Smith, 40 years for armed robbery, receiving stolen goods and assault and battery with intent to kill.
Authorities originally said that five inmates ran to the helicopter when came in low over the prison’s coiled razor wire and 12-foot fences and landed in the yard. The two who either jumped or were pushed away are now believed to have been guards, Brown said.
The prison was calm Friday, Dease said.
″It’s calm and we tried to get the yard back to normal procedure as soon as possible,″ he said.