Escaped Inmates, Ex-Guard Caught In N.M.

Inmates Jesse Bell, 33, and Steven Ford, 26, and former guard Amber Goff, 23, over Guard tower at Prison AP / CBS

A pair of fugitives from a Kansas prison and a former guard accused of helping them flee were captured in western New Mexico after one of the escaped convicts fired gunshots at police.

Jesse Bell, 33, and Steven Ford, 26, and former guard Amber Goff, 23, were taken into custody early Wednesday in Grants, said Detective Moses Marquez of the Grants Police Department.

Police believe Goff helped Ford and Bell escape from a recreation yard at the El Dorado Correctional Facility Sunday night.

"When they cut through the interior fence, an alarm was sounded that gave us - gave staff here at the El Dorado Correctional Facility indication that there was a problem," Bill Miskell of the Kansas Department of Corrections said during a press conference. "Staff responded within a matter of minutes to that location in the fence. And by the time staff arrived, the inmates' notes were gone."

Goff's mother, Laurie Ann Nutter, said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning that she was relieved her daughter was found alive and apparently unharmed.

On CBS' The Early Show this morning, Nutter begged her daughter to turn herself in and let her family know if she was OK.

She told Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm she wasn't sure if her daughter was in love with Ford.

"She would make reference to him, you know, over the span of the year that she worked there," she told Storm. "But she made reference to other inmates also. It was just a whole new world to her there."

She said her daughter was gullible. "They were able to really convince her, you know, that maybe they weren't guilty and maybe they really did deserve that second chance," she said. "That's just the nature of my daughter."

Grants police received a call about 1:30 a.m. about "a suspicious guy looking into cars" at an apartment complex, Marquez said.

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As soon as two officers arrived, a witness told them that "as soon as you guys got there, two guys ran into that building," Marquez said.

Sgt. Jason Fank and Officer Jessie Neito went into the apartment building and immediately saw two men run out a back door, Marquez said.

The officers chased them, nabbing Bell as he was jumping a fence, Marquez said.

They searched him and found a stolen small-caliber handgun in his waistband, Marquez said.

As the officers were talking with Bell, Ford pointed a stolen small-caliber handgun at them and fired four shots from about 35 yards away, Marquez said.

The two officers did not return fire and were not hit, Marquez said.

"They (the officers) were out in the open and they crouched down as low as they can," Marquez said.

The officers called in help from the Cibola County Sheriff's Department, and Ford was taken into custody without a struggle, Marquez said.

"These two guys said, 'We ain't telling you our name; we ain't telling you nothing,"' after they were taken into custody, Marquez said.

"But we talked to Bell and he said, 'You know what, you're gonna find out sooner or later that we're wanted in Kansas for escaping,"' Marquez said.

Police ran the names of Bell and Ford through the National Crime Information Center and discovered that Goff also was wanted, Marquez said.

"One of the officers said, 'Yeah, I dealt with her earlier,"' Marquez said.

Goff was found asleep in the driver's seat of a car parked in the driveway of a vacant Grants home, and a stolen small-caliber handgun was found under a newspaper next to her, Marquez said.

Bell, Ford and Goff were taken to the Cibola County Detention Center, were they were being held pending extradition to Kansas, Marquez said.

Goff's mother, Laurie Ann Nutter, said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning that she was relieved her daughter was found alive and apparently unharmed.

The day before, Nutter had begged her daughter to turn herself in and let her family know if she was OK. Goff left her two sons, ages 7 and 5, with her sister before going on what she said was a dinner date Sunday night, family members said.

"I think I might sleep tonight," Nutter said. "It is just unbelievable. I think I have been holding my breath for three days."

Authorities suspect Goff developed "an inappropriate relationship" with Ford while she was employed at the facility, prison spokesman Dale Call told The Wichita Eagle.

Nutter said Tuesday that Goff often mentioned Ford and that she had even warned her gullible daughter not to let him sweet-talk her.

Bell is serving Kansas sentences from Finney, Leavenworth and Cowley counties for forgery, burglary, battery and escape.

Ford is serving a Kansas sentence from Wyandotte County for robbery and indecent liberties.

The escape is the first from the prison's maximum security unit since it opened in 1991, said Bill Miskell, a Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman.
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