By KELI JACOBI News-T imes Staff Three inmates escaped from the Union County Jail some time be tween 1 and 4:30 a.m.
Monday, according to Union County Sheriff Ken Jones.
One of the escap ees Marcus Hicks , Hicks, 31, of Strong, was ap prehended around 9 p.m. Mon day at a residence at 1017 Craig St., Jones re ported.
The other Pearce two escap ees, both of whom were still at large as of press time Mon day night, are Karl E.
Pearce, 17, of Minden Charles , La., and Lester D. Charles, 20, of Spearsville, La.
Hicks was awaiting trial on attempted capital murder charges, stemming from a shooting incident in April which involved an El Dorado police offi cer.
Pearce and Charles pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in November. They were sentenced to the Arkansas Department of Correction for 15 and 20 years, respectively, and were being held in custody awaiting transfer to the ADC. The men broke through a cinder block wall leading into a plumbing crawl space from a shared jail cell, according to Jones. Once in the crawl space, Jones said the inmates broke a lock from a steel door leading to a fenced-in perimeter yard, where blankets were used to cover the razor wire fence to more easily scale it.
Similar escape tactics were used by six different inmates last March in a different section of the county jail. All were recaptured and eventually pleaded guilty to escape charges.
Jones insisted Monday that fl aws in the 16-year-old facility which houses the inmates are at the root of the repeated escape attempts, calling the jail "low bid and cheap built." As an example of certain design and structural fl aws at the jail, Jones said only 50 percent of the original cameras are still functional, and even if a new security camera were put into every jail cell, the ceilings are low enough inmates would likely rip them out prior to an escape attempt.
There are currently not any cameras pointed on the fenced-in yard, Jones said.
It will take about $60,000 to replace the old camera system with about 44 new ones, according to Jones, an amount which doesn’t include labor costs. There are other problems which are also being addressed, he said, such as tripling the amount of razor wire used around the fencing and installing steel bars over the plumbing closets.
"This facility is 16 to 17 years old. When it was brand new it had its problems," he said. "I’ve worked over the years trying to correct those problems, but it would be almost cheaper to build a new jail. We’ve found another fl aw and we’re trying to keep this kind of thing from happening again. I just gotta’ work with what was built and I’m more upset about it than anyone else could be."
The jail has been at maximum capacity for months now, a bit unusual for this time of year, said Jones, and provides an additional challenge as more inmates are aggregated together.
"They will be apprehended. It may not be today, but it’s just a matter of time before we catch them. We have a force of about 20 deputies looking right now and are turning over every rock," Jones said. Cash has been offered as a reward for information leading to the capture of the remaining two inmates, and both are considered dangerous, said Jones. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Union County Sheriff’s Offi ce at 870-864-1970.
"Should anyone come in contact with them, they need to understand that assisting an escaped inmate is a serious violation of the law," Jones said. "The best thing to do is call this offi ce or local law enforcement agencies if someone knows or sees anything."