Three men, who escaped from the Whitley County Jail on the day after Christmas, are back behind bars.
Gregory Chance, 32, of London, Billy Joe Dople, 29, of Siler, and Ronald Reams, 26, of London, reportedly broke out of the jail about 5 a.m. on Dec. 26.
About 9:50 a.m. Monday, Kentucky State Police received a tip that Chance was at a residence on Highway 1247 in the Science Hill community of Pulaski County.
KSP Trooper Anthony Phillips and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenny Upchurch responded to the scene, and arrested Chance and Dople without incident.
They were lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center before being extricated and booked back into the Whitley County Jail about 3:55 p.m. Monday.
Reams surrendered to Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy Albert Hale, and was booked back into the Whitley County Jail about 9:15 p.m. Monday.
Williamsburg Police Officers Brad Boyd and Brad Nighbert, who are investigating the escape, said all three would be charged with second-degree escape and criminal mischief for damage done to the jail during their escape.
The escapees had apparently been planning the escape for three to five weeks, Boyd said.
They escaped about 5 a.m., according to other inmates in the cell, police said.
Taylor said jail authorities didn’t know about the escape until a visitor came for Chance about 4 p.m. “When the guard went to get him out of the cell, he wasn’t there,” Taylor noted. “So when we didn’t find him, I said, ‘Where is Billy Dople?’ Billy Dople was gone, and we discovered there were three of them gone.”
Taylor said deputy jailers are supposed to do a head count every time they serve a meal in the cells. “If whoever serves the meal does their job right, they will call a name, and that person will come and pick their trays up. I’d like to tell you that always happens that way, but it doesn’t,” Taylor said. “Basically, if someone hadn’t signed him out, we might have been longer than that finding out he was gone.”
Boyd said Williamsburg police were told that Chance and Dople were missing immediately when they got to the jail, but didn’t learn about Reams escape until about 4:45 p.m.
According to Williamsburg police and Taylor, the three men apparently escaped through an access panel in the cell that covered a service area where several water pipes were located.
Taylor said that Reams worked for the contractor that installed the heating and air-conditioning system at the jail.
“His grandfather is the one, who helped put the new heat and air system in the old jail down there when it was out. So he knew well how to get out,” Taylor said.
How the inmates got the access panel open hasn’t been determined for certain.
Taylor said the inmates apparently made some kind of device to open the access panel door, and that jail officials are still trying to determine how they did it.
Boyd and Nighbert said that during the course of their investigation, they learned that one of the escapees helped with some maintenance work at the jail, and that he is believed to have gone into the service area to reset a water system regulating the toilets at one point, and only pretended to lock the access panel back.
Nighbert said the suspects used two hacksaw blades to saw through the metal rebar, which is a series of 12 metal bars slightly more than a quarter inch thick that covered the area between the access panel and the ventilation system. 11 of the bars were cut, and the other bar was bent in order for the suspects to make their way out.
The men fashioned handles for the saw blades out of cleaning sponges, which were wrapped around the blades followed by a layer of string, police said.
Nighbert said police believe a jail trustee supplied the hacksaw blades to the suspects possibly as long ago as May. Boyd said police also think that some of the inmates may have also assisted in the escape by helping the men obtain clothes or other items.
Nighbert said there are rumors that other prisoners helped the three men saw the rebar.
Criminal complicity charges may also be filed against the trustee believed to have supplied the hacksaw blades, and against other prisoners that may have assisted with the escape, police said.
Nighbert said the most of the other inmates in the cell swore they knew nothing about the escape, and that they would have gone too if they had known about it.
Boyd said he doubts this is true, and that the other inmates were probably just scared of what would have happened if they had been caught.
After sawing through the rebar, officials said the men got into the heating and air-conditioning vents, and made their way across the jail, and finally up onto the roof. Officials said the vents were no bigger than two feet in diameter. Police said a bottle of lotion was also found near the escape site, and that authorities believe it was to be used in case the suspects needed to grease themselves up in order to fit through the vents.
Taylor said a worker in the laundry room at the jail heard a loud noise above his head as the men were escaping, but the worker said he thought it was just someone stacking supplies in the room behind him.
Torn sheets were also found on the roof of the jail that authorities believe the men planned to use as a rope to climb down to the ground. After further examination, Nighbert said it appears the men were able to climb down the backside wall of the jail without a rope, and that they may have used the cable to the security camera to help them climb down.
Nighbert estimated that the inmates probably did at least $2,000 in damage to the bars and ventilation system at the jail.
Taylor said jail authorities might have to come up with a better locking mechanism for the access panels in order to discourage future escapes.
He said jail officials may also start locking the inmates, who are in the maximum security wing, out of their individual cells where they sleep, and confining them to the recreation area of the cell during the day. At night they will be locked into their cells, and out of the recreational area.
Will jail officials start implementing a more stringent head count procedure?
Taylor said that could be done to a point, but that it will become more difficult since the fiscal court capped the maximum number of employees he is permitted to have.
The fiscal court voted last week to limit the jail to the equivalent of 32 full-time employees.
Chance was being held in the jail charged with methamphetamine related charges.
Dople was lodged in the Whitley County Jail charged with first-degree robbery.
Reams is a Knox County prisoner, and was being held on a first-degree robbery charge.
Williamsburg Police Detective Wayne Bird and Sheriff Lawrence Hodge assisted with the investigation.
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