Inmate gives the slip -- again

Escape during trip to Bel Air hospital marks third time he has fled custody

January 25, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,sun reporter

The ride from the Harford County jail in Bel Air to the nearest hospital took all of six minutes. That was enough time for Terrence Kasses Washington - a man accused of bank robbery and car theft who had escaped from jail twice before, and whose escapades were re-enacted on America's Most Wanted.

By the time the sedan reached Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in the pre-dawn hours yesterday, Washington had slipped out of his leg irons, handcuffs and belly chain.

When the two armed officers in the front seat opened the back door, Washington fled into the darkness, triggering a widespread search that continued last night.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Maryland section yesterday incorrectly stated the month during which a car theft was alleged to have been committed by escaped inmate Terrence Kasses Washington and the place where he had been arrested by authorities. The crime took place in September 2003, according to court documents, and Washington was arrested in Ohio, according to a producer from the TV show America's Most Wanted who has chronicled Washington's alleged crimes.
The Sun regrets the errors.

"It's pretty remarkable for an individual to be able to do that in that amount of time," said Lt. James Eyler, a spokesman for the Harford County sheriff.

Washington, believed to be 31, was facing charges of car theft and assault stemming from a July 2003 incident in which he is accused of leading state troopers on a high-speed chase and ramming a sport utility vehicle into one of their cars.

Crime Web sites and news reports describe Washington as a rapper whose stomach is tattooed with dollar signs, a stack of money and the word "CASH." Another tattoo reads, "Only God Can Judge Me."

In 1998, he was linked to three bank robberies in Louisiana, and the FBI labeled him as "armed and extremely dangerous," according to an article in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

He has been charged criminally in at least five states, many of the charges involving car theft and bank robberies. He has also escaped from jails in Louisiana and Arkansas, according to news reports, and he has been profiled on TV's America's Most Wanted at least three times.

"I have piles of files on this guy," said Sedg Tourison, a producer with the show. "Some people are resigned to doing their time, and other people are always finding or trying to come up with ways to get out. And he seems to be cut of that cloth."

Authorities were searching for Washington last night. They were looking for a maroon Ford F-350 pickup, with the tag number 80S125, that was reported stolen from Bel Air, and a yellow Toyota Celica seen driving from a Home Depot near the hospital, police said.

Police were also looking into whether Washington was the man who tried to steal a car from a woman outside her home in the northern part of the county about 7:30 a.m., four hours after the escape, police said. The man fled when he learned that the car had a flat tire.

According to news reports, Washington had been charged with 21 crimes by 1998, including three bank robberies and a car theft. He was accused of recruiting sidekicks from small-time drug dealers and car thieves in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, according to a June 1998 article in The Times-Picayune. That year, he escaped from a jail in Yell County, Ark.

In July 2003, while awaiting trial on federal bank robbery charges, he and another man escaped from a jail in Tangipahoa Parish, La., after cutting the bars of their cell with a hacksaw blade, the paper reported.

He was captured later that year in Washington, D.C., shortly after he was profiled on America's Most Wanted, according to Tourison. He ended up in a jail in Ohio. Last November, he was transferred to the detention center in Harford County so he could stand trial on charges stemming from a car theft.

During that incident, in 2003, two suspects in a stolen SUV led troopers on a high-speed chase in Bel Air. The SUV twice rammed a state police vehicle head-on, injuring one of the state troopers. The suspects got away, but police found Washington's fingerprints inside the car.

Investigators were trying to determine how he pulled off his latest escape.

About 3 a.m., Washington was transported from the Harford County Detention Center to Upper Chesapeake, four miles away, to be treated for a medical condition, which police did not disclose.

Washington was placed in leg irons and handcuffs attached to a belly chain that allowed him to move his hands six inches from his waist, Eyler said. He sat in the back seat as two correctional officers, armed with handguns and Tasers, sat in the front. A cage divided the front and back seats, Eyler said.

"It was within protocol," Eyler said of the way Washington was transported to the hospital.

Police are trying to determine how he freed himself, Eyler said.

Asked whether an officer was watching Washington during the ride to the hospital, Eyler said he could not comment because the investigation was continuing.

"The inmate was being transferred to the hospital for a medical condition, which could have enabled him to hide his actions while he was in transport to the hospital," Eyler said. "If he's bent over in the back seat of a vehicle in pain, then the individual is able to hide or camouflage what he's doing with his hands."

The officers pulled the car up to a driveway near the emergency room of the hospital. When one of the officers opened the back door, Washington ran. He never came into contact with the officers, who ran after him, Eyler said.

Washington was last seen running into a wooded area behind the hospital, Eyler said.

The search began. A state helicopter flew over the area, shining a spotlight and infrared sensor to pick up body heat.

Forty-five sheriff's deputies searched the county, and notices were sent to police throughout the state, Eyler said.

Washington is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall. At the time of his escape, he was wearing a black-and-white-striped prison outfit. Police found the shirt in woods near the hospital.

Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or the Harford Sheriff's Office at 410-838-6600.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Laura Barnhardt and Nick Shields contributed to this article.

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