02/17/2006

Dog trainer used a crate to help Kan. inmate break out

By MARGARET STAFFORD
Associated Press Writer

LANSING, Kan.- A dog trainer who did volunteer work at a prison ran off with a convicted killer after helping him escape in a dog crate loaded into the back of her van, authorities say.

Toby Young, a 48-year-old married mother of two grown sons, was the founder of a program that rescued dogs from animal shelters and worked with inmates to train the pets and make them suitable for adoption.

Authorities at the state prison at Lansing said seven inmates apparently helped pull off the escape Sunday by putting 27-year-old prisoner John Manard into the crate, then hoisting it into her vehicle.

Two guards who were supposed to check the van before it left the prison did not do so, perhaps because they recognized and trusted Young, authorities said.

Young was "well-known and well-liked by everyone," Corrections Department spokesman Bill Miskell said. "It appears that her familiarity with the staff may have played a part."

Miskell refused to speculate on Young's possible motivation. Authorities have declined to say whether Young and the inmate were romantically involved.

In preparation for the escape, Young gathered more than $10,000 in cash, took two guns from her home, bought a vehicle, rented a storage area and bought hair dye and an electric razor that could be used to alter her appearance or Manard's, investigators said.

The state offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to Manard's arrest, but investigators acknowledged the two could be anywhere in the world by now.

Young was known as the "Dog Lady" to inmates at the prison about 25 miles from Kansas City, Mo. In numerous news stories about her Safe Harbor Prison Dog program, Young spoke passionately about her desire to help both the dogs and the inmates improve their lives.

Manard, who was serving a life sentence for murdering a man during a carjacking in 1996, was one of the inmates who helped train the dogs, and he was frequently quoted as praising the program.

Young's family, including her firefighter husband, Pat, refused requests for an interview. On Tuesday, her father read a statement saying family members "simply don't have any ideas why or how this happened." They assured Young they loved her and pleaded with her to come home.

People who worked with Young on the dog program refused to talk to The Associated Press, with one saying they are too overwhelmed to discuss her disappearance.

Before working at the prison, Young received training in which the boundaries between volunteers and inmates were made "extremely clear," Miskell said.

"Our training emphasizes to volunteers what they should and should not do for the inmates," he said. "There is no doubt that she knew the boundaries."

Miskell said prison officials hope the dog program can continue. He said it has proved valuable in getting inmates to behave behind bars.

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