The Edmond Sun

State News

September 27, 2012

Prison escape assisted by jail employee

Pontotoc County — Law enforcement officers throughout Oklahoma and the Southwest were on the lookout Wednesday for two felons who escaped from the Pontotoc County Justice Center, allegedly with the help of a jail employee.

Johnny Welborn Brown Jr., 32, and Mark David Matthews Jr., 23, were cellmates in lockdown in the secure housing area at the back of the jail when they escaped around midnight Tuesday. Jerrianna Kindrick, who had worked as a jailer at the facility since April, was arrested and charged with aiding the escape soon after it was discovered during a head count at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

"I've interviewed the jailer who was working the control room, and she admitted letting them out," Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian said Wednesday morning. "Her story is that (Brown and Matthews) threatened her family members who work at another Oklahoma prison.

"This has been going on for about two weeks, and she never mentioned the threats so we could take action. The other jail staff was at the front of the building (at the time of the escape). Five doors have to be opened for a prisoner to escape back there, but when somebody is opening those doors for them it's not too difficult.

“I believe we have very good policies in place, but when a staff member makes a poor decision and goes rogue on you, I don't know how to get around that."

Christian admitted the escape was the result of a couple of breakdowns in procedures that all jail employees are supposed to follow. The first was by Kindrick in not reporting the alleged threats, and the second was by deputies who made visual bed checks during the night.

"(Employees) are supposed to let us know when there is a threat like this so we can take action," he said. "(Kindrick) should ABSOLUTELY have told us about this. All of us deal with threats every day.

"(The escapees) rolled their mattresses up on their beds so it looked they were there," Christian said. "Jailers are supposed to observe motion, but (the jailer on duty) didn't do that. If proper procedure that had been set forth — to see an actual movement — had been followed, the escape would have been discovered sooner.  I'm going to have to say we failed in that area."

Christian said Brown had been in jail since Jan. 31 after he was arrested on a probation violation. He was facing a laundry list of charges, including domestic abuse, armed robbery and possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.  Matthews was also a repeat offender who had been an inmate at the jail since December. He was awaiting transfer to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to serve a 10-year sentence for second-degree burglary.

Brown made the only previous escape attempt from the jail (which opened in May 2010) when he tried to dig through the ceiling in a shower area this summer, Christian said.

"I don't know that they are armed, but I would consider them dangerous," Christian said.  

Investigators viewed video of the escape to determine when it occurred, and Christian said the footage left no doubt that Brown and Matthews — who were in the secure housing area because of repeated rules violations — had received help from a jail employee.

"It was obvious they were aided by somebody within the facility when we observed the video," he said.  "There are five doors back there with a touch screen on each one of them.  There are still two past the recreation area, and the first one has to close before the second one will open. This facility is awesome, but when you have staff that assists inmates, that makes it easy."

Christian said investigators could have a lead on the direction the escapees were heading after they left the jail, and information had been sent to all law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for the two men.

Anyone with information concerning the escape or the location of Brown and/or Matthews should contact the Pontotoc County Sheriff's Department at (580) 332-4169.

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