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Texas Inmates Take Officer Hostage

February 22, 2000

LIVINGSTON, Texas (AP) _ Two death row inmates who were part of a botched escape in 1998 took a female guard hostage Monday in a new prison that was supposed to be more secure.

The guard was taking one inmate back to his cell at about 4:15 p.m. when he and another inmate overpowered her, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald. One inmate had somehow jimmied his cell door, Fitzgerald said.

The guard, Jeanette Bledsoe, was handcuffed with one leg shackled. She was seated on the floor in a small cage-like room adjacent to death row in the Terrell unit.

``They have no place to go. Officers have sealed off the area,″ Fitzgerald said. ``She has not been threatened or harmed in any way, but it is a tense situation.″

In talks with negotiators, they complained it takes six months to make changes in visitation lists. They also want to be allowed out of their cells for longer than one hour a day.

``Basically it’s complaints about conditions in the prison,″ Fitzgerald said.

One inmate had a makeshift knife; the other had a 2-foot long piece of metal used to open the dinner door on each prison cell.

Ponchai Wilkerson, 24, was condemned for the robbery and shooting of a Houston jewelry store clerk. Howard Guidry, 22, is on death row for shooting a woman in a murder-for-hire plot.

Death row inmates are being relocated to the more modern and secure Terrell unit from the Ellis unit near Huntsville due to an escape attempt by seven inmates there in 1998. One inmate made it out but drown in a creek about a mile from the prison. The two inmates who took the hostage Monday participated in the botched escape.

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