01/16/2006

Police in Ala., Ga. hunt for escaped murder suspects

The Associated Press

PHENIX CITY, Ala.- Police in Alabama and Georgia searched Monday for two murder suspects who fled from an overcrowded jail after overpowering guards, wounding one with a makeshift knife, authorities said.

Searchers used tracking dogs in the hunt for Johnny Earl Jones, 17, who was charged with killing a child he was baby-sitting for, and Lamar Benton, 19, charged in the rape-slaying of a 39-year-old woman.

They escaped early Saturday from Russell County Jail in Phenix City. A third murder suspect got out with them but was quickly recaptured by officers using tracking dogs and helicopters.

The three men attacked two guards, then went to the front of the jail, where they knocked down another officer, took her keys and escaped, Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell said.

"We had two correctional officers doing a security check through the building, and they were physically attacked by three inmates," he said. One guard, Matthew Waldrup, was stabbed 15 times with a makeshift knife and was recovering at home.

Phenix City is located across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Ga. Authorities in both states participated in the search, Boswell said.

Like many jails in Alabama, the Russell County Jail is operating beyond its designed capacity of 220. It held about 300 inmates when the escape happened, Boswell said.

Jones is charged with murder in the death of 2-year-old Destiny Aniyah Ward; Benton in the rape and murder of Cynthia Thomas, 39, a mother of three. The third suspect, 33-year-old Brent Martin, was charged in the shootings of Johnnie Randolph III, 21, and Darryl Maurice Carrillo, 18. All three were charged last year.

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