Two Hostages Freed; Inmates Still At Large
PHENIX CITY, Ala. (AP) _ A woman abducted by two knife-wielding prison escapees said Saturday night that she pleaded with the two not to hurt her throughout a 19 -hour odyssey over the back roads of Georgia and Alabama.
″I was begging them all the time to let us go,″ said Harriet Cornelius in a telephone interview from her Highland Lake home.
″I would go all to pieces at times, and then I’d get better,″ said Mrs. Cornelius, 48. ″I tried to stay as calm as I could because it seemed to bother them when I got upset.″
Mrs. Cornelius, the Highland Lake town clerk, and former town mayor Frank Lucas, 46, were abducted by a pair of prison inmates about 3 p.m. Friday. The two inmates were part of an unsupervised work crew from nearby St. Clair Correctional Facility doing maintenance work at the Highland Lake town hall.
The town is about 25 miles northeast of Birmingham.
John Hale, spokesman for the state prison system, said the search for the inmates, Timothy Mark Townsend, 25, and Newburn Ray Wilson, 37, was focused Saturday night on southeast Alabama near the Georgia border where Lucas and Mrs. Cornelius were released unharmed Saturday.
They were dropped off in a neighborhood just outside Phenix City, in southeast Alabama about 130 miles from Highland Lake, Hale said.
″They went to a house and said they had been kidnapped,″ he said.
Lucas and Mrs. Cornelius, who returned Saturday afternoon to Highland Lake, were wearing prison clothes when freed, said state police Lt. Roy Smith. ″Apparently they changed clothes with the inmates.″
Lucas and Mrs. Cornelius were abducted at knifepoint Friday from a recreational area near Highland Lake Town Hall, where an inmate work crew had been cleaning, said prison spokeswoman Debbie Herbert. They escaped in one of the hostage’s cars.
The crew from the correctional facility 15 miles away was not accompanied by a prison guard, but was supervised by city workers, Mrs. Herbert said.
Townsend was serving a 10-year sentence on a burglary conviction, and Wilson a 65-year term for two robbery convictions.
In 1976, Wilson failed to return after being granted a three-day pass from Fountain Correctional Facility near Atmore, and in 1977 he left an unsupervised work detail in Montgomery, Mrs. Herbert said.