Inmate escapes Arundel jail

Police use helicopters and dogs in search for fugitive in Annapolis

April 06, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

A prisoner scheduled for trial next week on charges including attempted murder escaped from the Anne Arundel County Detention Center on Jennifer Road yesterday afternoon by scaling a 20-foot-high razor-wire fence.

He left behind a shoe and a trail of blood, authorities said.

Police were searching last night for the 23-year-old fugitive, Derrick Dion Jones, whose last address was in the North County community of Pumphrey.

He escaped from a recreation yard by climbing a razor-wire fence, jumping onto the roof of a housing unit and climbing down another razor-wire fence into a passage between the jail perimeter and West Annapolis fire station.

He apparently used a bedsheet to minimize cuts, officials said.

Police officers had been meeting with Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee to review the case against Jones - who is charged with shooting a 61-year-old Annapolis woman during a Christmas Eve robbery - when the call came in that he had escaped.

According to his spokeswoman, Weathersbee's response was: "`Go find him.'"

By then, several dozen officers from Annapolis, the county and state police were searching for Jones, who vanished after being seen twice crossing U.S. 50 and dodging traffic.

Authorities initially reported that Jones may have stolen a car and gotten away from the Annapolis area. But more than three hours after his escape, county police said there had been no other sighting of Jones, described as black, 6 feet 4 inches tall, 210 pounds and wearing a green jumpsuit.

Dogs were being used to search for Jones in the wooded area along U.S. 50 near the jail and in nearby shopping and residential areas while helicopters hovered overhead.

Jones, held without bail since December, has also been charged with armed robbery, assault and drug violations. He was scheduled for trial on a drug charge April 17 and a gambling charge April 18. On May 29, Jones was scheduled to go on trial for a September home invasion.

Victims were warned about Jones' escape by the prosecutor's office. But Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney, said it was unclear whether any of the victims or witnesses in the cases against Jones had requested that police stand guard at their homes as a precaution.

Security was tightened around the State House because one of Jones' alleged victims is reported to work in the government complex.

Police in Baltimore also were alerted to watch for Jones, whose last known address was in the 200 block of Zepplin Ave., which is near the city and a narrow stretch of Baltimore County between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Harbor Tunnel Thruway.

Jones was also known to frequent the West County's Pioneer City area, where he was charged with running a street dice game in June.

Richard J. Baker, superintendent of the county's two detention centers, said Jones' escape may have been made possible by a fight between two other prisoners that momentarily diverted the attention of an officer who was escorting about 10 inmates to the recreation yard.

Baker said it was likely that Jones had planned his escape. "These things usually don't happen on the spur of the moment," Baker said.

Authorities recovered one of Jones' shoes and a bedsheet, which police said he may have tucked inside his uniform for protection against the wire. Baker said it was evident from the blood trail that Jones had been cut by the wires that are draped along the fence posts and top perimeter fences.

Baker said the escort officer saw Jones as he scaled the first fence and seconds later an officer in the tower spotted the maximum-security inmate on the roof.

There was a brief escape from the Jennifer Road detention center in 1998, but the inmate in that case was quickly captured. Yesterday's escape was the first in more than a decade in which an inmate remained free for any length of time.

Some police officers questioned how quickly detention center officials notified outside authorities of the escape. But Baker said that within three minutes of the alert that an escape was in progress, the county's Southern District police dispatcher was called.

Sun staff writer Howard Libit contributed to this article.

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