Convicted murderer captured after Kan. jailbreak

Eric James, 22, Santos Carrera-Morales, 22, and Drew Wade, 21, three of four people who broke out of a county jail in Minneapolis, Kan. on April 18, 2012.
AP Photo/Kansas Department of Corrections

(AP) TOPEKA, Kan. - A convicted murderer who escaped with three other inmates from a Kansas county jail has been captured and sent back to a state prison after nearly two days on the run, authorities said Friday.

Santos Carrera-Morales, 22, was arrested in Russell, Kan., about 80 miles from the Ottawa County jail, late Thursday, the Kansas Department of Corrections said in a statement. Two of the escaped inmates were caught Wednesday. Eric James, 22, remained at large.

The four who escaped Ottawa County jail early Wednesday had been transferred there because of overcrowding at the state prison in Ellsworth. The jailbreak prompted state officials to return all state inmates held at the county jail in Minneapolis, a small town about 120 miles west of Topeka, back to Ellsworth.

Kansas pulls inmates from county jail after four escape

Two officers took Carrera-Morales into custody without incident after a 911 caller alerted police to a suspicious person at a convenience store in Russell, city Police Chief Jon Quinday told The Associated Press. Carrera-Morales told police that he hitched a ride into the city.

"He was sitting on the side of the store," Quinday said. "He had been given a ride there by somebody who picked him up north of the city."

Quinday did not say if police have identified the person who Carrera-Morales said drove him to Russell.

Carrera-Morales was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of a teenager and a young man in Sedgwick County in March 2007. Police in Wichita, where Carrera-Morales has ties, have described him as a gang member.

One of the inmates was recaptured shortly after the escape, and another, Drew Wade, 21, turned himself in Wednesday evening at a Walmart in North Platte, Neb., about 240 miles northwest of the Ottawa County jail. Authorities said Wade, serving time for robbery and aggravated battery, was traveling in one of the stolen vehicles, a minivan.

The Kansas Highway Patrol and state Department of Corrections say the escaped inmates stole at least two vehicles in Minneapolis, Kan.

Highway Patrol spokesman Ben Gardner said authorities believe they can now place James in the other stolen vehicle, a gold 2002 Nissan Altima with a Kansas license plate of 649-CIC. James was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping and criminal damage in 2008.

"We still don't know where that Nissan Altima is," Gardner said.

Corrections department spokesman Jeremy Barclay applauded the Russell city police for their help in the arrest of Carrera-Morales, who he said was taken straight to Ellsworth Correctional Facility.

On Thursday, Barclay told The Associated Press that the department was reviewing its policy on inmate transfers to Ottawa County — one of four county jails that accommodates prisoners from overcrowded state facilities.

"This is an interim step while the investigation is taking place," Barclay said.

The department said Thursday it still houses 86 male inmates in county jails under contracts paying the counties an average of $40 a day per inmate. The state also has contracts with jails in Butler, Cowley and Leavenworth counties, Barclay said.

County lockups must pass an inspection that includes a review of training and facilities before it can accept state inmates. An Ottawa County website said its jail can house 60 offenders and has eight corrections officers on staff.

Sheriff Keith Coleman told The Associated Press Radio the inmates used homemade knives to overpower two guards, get into the jail's control room and unlock doors.

Sending inmates to Ottawa County allowed the state to keep the population at the Ellsworth prison, about 50 miles to the southwest, below its capacity of 818 inmates. As of Thursday, the state had 8,654 male inmates, exceeding its bed space by 212, or 2.5 percent.

The prison system's budget has declined in recent years as the state has faced financial problems. But lawmakers are considering proposals this year to increase prison space.

Barclay said the Department of Corrections has had informal, internal discussions about undergoing more training since the escape.