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Fla. Inmate Escapes Via Helicopter

June 5, 2000

INDIANTOWN, Fla. (AP) _ An inmate at a prison for sex offenders escaped Monday aboard a helicopter that landed inside the walls of the facility and flew him away.

The helicopter cleared the wall of the Martin Treatment Center around 1 p.m. before crashing in a citrus grove about 100 yards away. The inmate, Steven Whitsett, 28, and the pilot ran off, and police were searching the area, said Jenell Atlas, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.

Two gun holsters were found beside the helicopter

``We do consider them armed and dangerous, and frankly, desperate,″ Atlas said.

The center is about 35 miles northwest of West Palm Beach.

Whitsett was convicted in 1994 of a sexual assault on a child, and his prison sentence ended in September. He was being held in the Martin center while awaiting a hearing on whether he should be locked up indefinitely for psychiatric treatment.

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