crimesider

On The Lam: Escaped Ark. Prisoners Sighted In Michigan

(AP)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) The two convicted killers that escaped a high-security prison in Arkansas by putting on jail guard uniforms and walking to a car left for them outside the gates have been spotted in Michigan.

The fugitives, who escaped Friday evening, were spotted in the Missouri Bootheel on Saturday but later seen in the Wolverine State, where one of them has relatives, Correction Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler said Monday afternoon.

Tyler also confirmed that five prison guards were placed on unpaid leave Monday afternoon while the department investigates the escape of Jeffrey Grinder and Calvin Adams. Tyler would not name the five officers, but said they had been guarding the entry and exit points of the prison.

Gov. Mike Beebe on Monday called the escape "inexcusable" and said he was waiting on the department's investigation on how it occurred. He said he was sure there would be some ramifications.

Among the jobs for inmates at the Cummins Unit is making uniforms for jail guards and law officers. Video surveillance shows the men put the uniforms on in the prison library after the 6 p.m. headcount and walked out of the prison unchallenged during a shift change less than 20 minutes later, Tyler said.

Grinder and Adams drove away in a car that was left for them.

Tyler said the men were spotted northwest of Kalamazoo. Adams has relatives in Michigan, including his mother, but Tyler said it wasn't his mother who reported seeing the fugitives.

"We feel real confident about (the sighting)," Tyler said.

Officers in Michigan searched an area and tracking dogs picked up a scent, which they lost at a paved road.

"It could indicate they got back in the car and left," Tyler said. "We are working with Michigan and will continue to be a presence in the Bootheel."

Grinder, 32, and Adams, 39, were each convicted of capital murder and were serving life sentences without parole.

Tyler says the men were spotted Saturday in two southeast Missouri communities, Hayti and Braggadocio.

Grinder and Adams are believed to be traveling together.

Tyler said the department is investigating how the inmates obtained the uniforms and were able to leave the prison without anyone noticing something was amiss.

"We know that they used officer uniforms and they walked out the front," Tyler said. "We don't know where the uniforms came from, but the suspect has to be the garment factory."

Tyler said that inmates who work in the garment factory are searched upon entering and leaving the building, which is separate from the prison facility.

Authorities are also trying to find out who left the automobile for the fugitives.

Adams is from Leachville and was convicted of capital murder in 1995 in the 1994 kidnapping and shooting death of banker Richard Austin, 25. Austin's wife was wounded and was able to walk more than a mile for help. Grinder is from Yellville and was convicted of capital murder, aggravated robbery and burglary in the 2003 beating death of Pat Gardner, 77, who lived near Springdale.

Tyler said the fugitives did not display a weapon in any of the three sightings. She noted that they were each serving life without parole and pose a heightened risk to the public "because they don't have a whole lot to lose."

Beebe said he didn't know what action would be taken against department employees over the escape, and said he was waiting on more details on how it occurred.

"We don't know whether it was a breakdown at the gate where they left, we don't know if it's a breakdown with whoever was watching the cameras, we don't know whether it was a breakdown within the library. We don't know how much of it was inside in terms of cooperation," Beebe told The Associated Press. "Until we know all that, it's kind of hard to know what the ramifications will be, but I'm sure there will be some."

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