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Texas inmate swallowed key, concealed knife


Special restraints have been purchased for a jail inmate accused of killing three men after sheriff's deputies discovered he had swallowed a handcuff key and was concealing a handmade knife in preparation for an apparent escape.

A search of Christopher Chubasco Wilkins' cell last week also uncovered a one-page handwritten letter that included white supremacy phrases and centered on Wilkins's belief that he would soon be out of jail, homicide Sgt. J.D. Thornton said.

"It doesn't specify by what means, but once out, according to the letter, he planned on killing more people," Thornton said. "The contents of the letter confirmed our original thinking that he is a violent individual who will kill at random and that race probably was a factor in the killings for which he's in jail."

Wilkins has been in the Tarrant County Jail since November, awaiting trial on murder and capital murder charges in the deaths of Gilbert Vallejo, Mike Silva and Willie Freeman.

Vallejo was fatally shot Oct. 26 as he walked out of the Lady Luck Lounge at 426 S. Jennings Ave. Two days later, police found the bodies of Silva and Freeman in a ditch near the 9500 block of Old Weatherford Road.

Vallejo and Silva were Hispanic. Freeman was black.

Assistant District Attorney Tiffany Burks said Tuesday that prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty.

She said the office is still gathering information to determine whether more charges will be sought.

Wilkins' attorney, Wes Ball, said he had heard of the latest accusation against his client from a detective but had not read any reports on the incident.

"I'm going to have to look at the official documentation of this to see whether these claims have merit," Ball said.

Since his incarceration, Wilkins has told Fort Worth homicide investigators that he committed about a dozen other slayings in at least five states, including Texas. So far, checks with those jurisdictions and a two-day excavation last month of the back yard of a New Mexico home where one of Wilkins' victims was supposedly buried have not resulted in anything to corroborate his claims.

The knife and handcuff key were discovered by jailers Feb. 22, one day before Wilkins had planned to meet with homicide Detective Cheryl Johnson.

"Because of his classification as assaultive and high-risk, he is routinely searched and his property is routinely searched ... at different times of the day and night," said Terry Grisham, spokesman with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department.

During the search, deputies saw Wilkins place something in his mouth, which Wilkins said was a razor blade, Grisham said.

"We took him to medical and X-rayed him. It was very clearly a handcuff key, which is a tremendous security risk," Grisham said.

Grisham said it is not known how Wilkins got the key, which was recovered Monday.

Grisham said that deputies also recovered some type of plastic material that Wilkins appeared to have tried unsuccessfully to fashion into a key as well.

Officials believe Wilkins was going to try to escape during his meeting with Johnson. Johnson said that the letter recovered by deputies was addressed to her and was intended to have been found after his escape.

Johnson said the letter and other items did not surprise her because Wilkins' criminal history includes other escapes, including leaving a halfway house in Houston.

"We expected that every time we took him out because he has such a history of escape," she said.

 Fort Worth Star Telegram (http://www.star-telegram.com/)

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