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Vt. Prison Escapee Captured in Fla.

June 30, 1999

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ A game of pool with undercover officers led to the capture of a prison escapee.

James Lertola was captured by five U.S. marshals in a bar in Daytona Beach, Fla., Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal William Gerke Jr. said yesterday.

Lertola, 23, was one of two inmates who escaped last month from Vermont’s Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport. He was serving a five- to 33-year sentence for previous escapes and kidnapping.

After talking to the driver of a car stolen in Vermont that was found in Florida, marshals started watching the bar for Lertola and the other escapee, Craig Whitman. Plainclothes marshals saw Lertola on Saturday but weren’t sure of his identity, so they engaged him in a game of pool.

``They had been very cautious and reserved,″ Gerke said.

During their conversation, Lertola asked the deputies where they were from. ``They said, ‘Where are you from?’ He said, ‘I’m from Vermont.’ After that question was asked and answered, the melee ensued,″ Gerke said.

``He put up a huge fight,″ Gerke said. ``You can characterize it as an extremely violent struggle.″

Whitman was still at large.

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