11/11/2005

La. escaped inmates caught two months later in Tennessee

The Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Two Louisiana prisoners missing for nearly two months were caught here this week, and investigators believe the men pretended to be Hurricane Katrina victims to get aid.

Zachary Arabie, serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery, was captured Thursday at the University of Tennessee. Steven Ridge, serving 10 years for forgery and theft, was arrested Monday at a gas station, allegedly after trying to buy gas with fake money.

Once in custody, Ridge tried to gnaw the skin off his fingers so his real identity would not be discovered, police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said. Ridge was jailed and faces new charges in Tennessee of assault, vandalism and stealing a car.

Federal authorities will investigate whether the men used false IDs to pose as victims and get aid, DeBusk said.

Arabie and Ridge were discovered missing from a Ferriday, La., prison Sept. 13. The prison was not in the area affected by the hurricane, but Louisiana authorities said the inmates have families in the storm zone.

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