Captured escapees may have had help

Prison psychologist, fired for inappropriate contacts, is scrutinized

May 21, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon and Peter Hermann | Devon Spurgeon and Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The two inmates who escaped from a Jessup prison Tuesday evening were arrested yesterday as investigators tried to determine whether a fired prison psychologist helped them break out.

Gregory Lee Lawrence, a convicted murderer, was captured in his girlfriend's East Baltimore home about 1: 30 p.m. FBI agents found Byron Lester Smoot a half-hour later at a $37-a-night motel on Pulaski Highway.

But their recapture is apparently only the beginning of a more complicated investigation into how the two managed to escape and whether they had help from the psychologist, who was fired in June of 1998 for inappropriate contact with inmates.

Prison sources said investigators believe that after the inmates escaped, they paged the psychologist from a pay phone less than a mile away from the prison, and that she picked them up in a car.

The prison and police sources identified the psychologist as Dr. Elizabeth Feil, 43, of Annapolis. Sources said she was fired for communicating with prisoners in a phony mail scheme in which letters bypassed prison censors.

Last night, WBAL-TV aired an interview with Feil's husband, Glenn Bosshard, 45, who said his wife was sexually involved with Smoot and had visited him last week. The TV station broadcast photos of a scantily clad Feil, and quoted Bossard saying police found a postcard in Smoot's cell addressed to his wife saying: "See you in three days." Sources said Bosshard showed state police nude pictures of Feil he claimed she had given to inmates.

Maryland State Police spokesman Pete Piringer would not comment about the investigation or Feil. "We know there was an accomplice," he said. "We have interviewed people that have been involved. No one has been charged."

Lawrence was serving a life sentence for shooting and robbing a military reserve aircraft mechanic in 1978 in North Baltimore. Smoot was serving 29 years for 11 armed robberies in Anne Arundel County.

Officials said the two inmates, who slept two bunks away from each other, planned their escape from the medium security prison well. The inmates sold their clothes to friends and hoarded food. Tuesday evening, they slipped past an unmanned watchtower and scaled two fences, one topped with razor wire.

Once outside, police said they made it to a pay phone at Route 175 and Dorsey Run Road. State police bloodhounds lost the escapees' scent at that intersection.

Tips poured in to police and federal agents Wednesday and yesterday, until informants finally came through with solid information. Teams of officers burst into a two-story rowhouse on Ensor Street about 1: 30 p.m. and found Lawrence in a back bedroom.

Baltimore Lt. Jay Fisher said officers quickly arrested the fugitive, who had numerous cuts on his arms and legs, apparently from the razor wire atop the prison fence. Fisher said his police questioned his girlfriend and could charge her with harboring a fugitive.

About 2 p.m., members of an FBI violent crime task force reported finding Smoot hiding in a second-floor room at the Regal Motel on Pulaski Highway in Rosedale. A clerk, Cwey Patel, said a woman had rented the single-bed room at noon Wednesday, and paid $113 cash for three days.

Authorities said they took Smoot to the University of Maryland Medical Center for treatment of a leg injury he apparently suffered while climbing 12- and 15-foot fences at the Jessup prison.

Charges may add 10 years

Both inmates were turned over to the state police and charged with escape, which could add 10 years to their sentences. They were then locked down in Supermax, the state's most secure prison in downtown Baltimore.

Prison officials were relieved the inmates were back in custody, but were left yesterday trying to explain a number of security lapses in the way the inmates, both of whom had a history of escape attempts, had been handled over the years.

Lawrence attempted to escape from the Patuxent Institution -- a maximum-security prison in Jessup -- in 1991. Corrections officers caught him cutting the wires of the perimeter fence. He was sent to Supermax.

After four years in Supermax, he was sent to the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown. Two case managers and a security supervisor approved Lawrence's transfer to the medium-security facility. He was employed there as a sweeper.

Last fall, he was sent from Hagerstown to the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup. He spent October in solitary confinement, said a prison official, who would not disclose the offense that prompted the punishment.

Smoot fled a prerelease program in 1993 and was recaptured three days later.

Prison officials also were left to explain why the main tower was unstaffed. They said the post -- adjacent to the prison's main entrance -- is left unguarded every Tuesday because it is the only day of the week that visitors are not allowed.

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