Slippery fugitive captured in Tennessee

`Escape artist' who fled custody in Harford also wanted for car thefts

May 03, 2007|By Madison Park and Justin Fenton | Madison Park and Justin Fenton,Sun reporters

Three months after wriggling free from his shackles and bounding into the early morning darkness of Harford County, an inmate who has garnered national attention as an escape artist was apprehended in a quiet motel outside Nashville.

Terrence Kasses Washington, who police say left a trail of stolen vehicles from Bel Air to Alabama after his escape from a sheriff's car in Harford County on Jan. 24 while being transported to a local hospital, again attempted to flee authorities last week when police in Goodlettsville, Tenn., questioned him about a stolen vehicle, according to police.

Washington's subsequent arrest offered clues into how he has been spending his time. Police in Goodlettsville say he stole at least two cars, one of them a Lexus with Indiana tags.

Police also said they recovered suitcases, laptop cases, business files and pocketbooks thought to have been collected from Memphis and Knoxville, Tenn.

"He's the kind of guy they make movies about," said Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane. "We've dealt with individuals who could slip handcuffs, but no one who was this good."

Featured on the television show America's Most Wanted for continually giving authorities the slip, Washington has escaped from a jail in Louisiana by sawing through window bars and fled a prison in Arkansas. In recent years he has been wanted by the FBI as an escaped federal prisoner and has racked up charges in Maryland, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri, including bank robbery and auto theft.

His arrest set off a flurry of phone calls among law enforcement officials across the eastern United States looking for an opportunity to put him in jail - and keep him there.

"Wherever he lands next, he's going to be thinking about how he's going to get out," said Sedg Tourison, a producer with America's Most Wanted. "Hopefully, one of these times, he'll be able to face his charges and they can get him on lockdown."

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

Complaining of stomach pains after the crash, Washington was taken to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in the back seat of a county sheriff's department Ford Crown Victoria, police said.

During the six-minute trip, Washington slipped out of handcuffs, leg irons and a belly chain. When two deputies opened the car's back door at the hospital, Washington ran into nearby woods.

Yesterday, he was being held at a maximum-security unit of the Criminal Justice Center in Nashville, said Rick Gentry, a spokesman for the Davidson County sheriff's office in Tennessee. It was not clear whether he would be extradited to Maryland.

Washington's escape spurred numerous changes in Harford County's procedures for transporting inmates.

"We're better for it," said Bane, Harford's sheriff.

He said that cameras have been installed in police cruisers and that police dogs will go along for the ride when a high-risk inmate is being transported.

Deputies will also position themselves differently when it comes time to remove the inmate from the vehicle, Bane said. The agency also purchased two dozen "blue boxes" - devices made of plastic and metal that are placed over handcuff chains to restrict wrist movement.

"He was a half step ahead of us because of his talents as an escape artist," Bane said. "Next time, if there is a next time, I don't think he'll be good enough to beat a dog. But then again, we won't know unless he tries."

It took several days until police officers in Goodlettsville, 15 miles north of Nashville, realized they had an escape artist in their midst. Washington gave Tennessee authorities two pseudonyms: "Terrell Watson" and "Terrell Wilson." Fingerprints eventually revealed his true identity.

Last Wednesday, Goodlettsville Deputy Chief Richard Pope and Officer Jason DeLoach spotted a reportedly stolen Ryder truck parked at a motel. After watching the motel's surveillance video, the officers determined that they should question Washington about the truck.

When the officers approached, Washington tried to run out of the motel room, but he didn't get far, police said.

"I can attest that he's in good shape. He can run - trust me," Pope said.

A search of Washington's pockets turned up a key to another reportedly stolen vehicle that was also recovered in the motel parking lot. They found numerous other items believed to have been stolen, Pope said.

madison.park@baltsun.com justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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