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Police Say Maintenance Workers Foiled Jail Escape

December 4, 1989

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Clogged plumbing exposed an escape attempt by a convicted robber and murder suspect who had been trying to burrow out of his cell and was flushing debris down the toilet, police said.

Randy Hellum, a fugitive for two months after an escape from custody last summer, had been trying to tunnel through the jail’s double-layered cinderblock and brick wall, police said.

Investigators did not know how long Hellum had been working on the hole, but ″he’d been quiet and a model prisoner, which made us a little suspicious, knowing his character,″ Ramsey County Sheriff Charles Zacharias said.

Hellum succeeded in dislodging one 8-inch by 12-inch cinderblock from an inner wall in his cell and had removed bricks on the outer wall before being discovered late Saturday, said Lt. Mike Shanley, deputy director of the jail.

″The heroes here are the maintenance workers,″ Shanley said. ″They knew the problem shouldn’t be occurring,″ with the drainage.

Hellum, 33, is being held in lieu of $1 million bail on charges of commiting a Nov. 3 murder while he was a fugitive from Hennepin County, where he had been sentenced to 27 years in prison for bank robbery.