Escapee has brief taste of freedom

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 18, 2003

A Butler County Jail inmate escaped Thursday morning, but Sheriff Diane Harris and her deputies captured him in just over three hours.

Charles &uot;Charlie&uot; Ray Sexton Jr., 19, a white male from Holly Hill Road, scaled the fence surrounding the jail Thursday at approximately 10:15 a.m. while inmates were in the facility’s yard.

Almost immediately, Harris, her deputies and members of the Sheriff’s Auxiliary spread out in the area searching for Sexton.

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The sheriff alerted all area law enforcement agencies of the escape.

Members of the Greenville Police Department worked with deputies in contacting locations where Sexton could be headed.

The K9 unit from Holman Prison in Atmore also dispatched two dog handlers and search dogs to the area to be used if needed to track Sexton down.

At 2 p.m. Sexton was back in custoday.

&uot;This is another example of the good teamwork we have here at the Butler County Sheriff’s Department,&uot; Harris said.

&uot;It really bothers me when something like this happens, but I know we won’t stop until we have them back in custody.

I’m pleased to know that all of our agencies can work together and with the quick response from everyone to the escape. we were able to capture Sexton without incident.&uot;

According to Harris, witnesses called in after Sexton left the jail saying they saw a man fitting his description walking down the street in the familiar orange uniforms most inmates wear.

At some point he made his way over to his estranged wife’s home on Flowers Street and witnesses who saw him said he was wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

Harris said he shucked his uniform along the way in the woods behind the jail.

Once on Flowers Street, Sexton met up with a juvenile whom Harris said transported him to a location in Chapman.

The authorities began searching for a two-tone Ford Ranger extended cab pickup truck.

Sheriff Harris also dispatched Deputy Russell Davis to Georgiana before that so he could check possible locations in the area Sexton might go. The Georgiana Police Department checked at Sexton’s grandmother’s home before Davis arrived.

At approximately 11:30 a.m., GPD Sgt. Justin Lovvorn spotted the juvenile and the pickup truck.

He pulled him over at the corner of Commerce and Park streets.

Harris arrived shortly thereafter and questioned the 15-year-old about Sexton’s whereabouts and he said he dropped Sexton off at Lloyd’s Country Store.

That information didn’t set right with the sheriff and on further questioning, he revealed he took Sexton to a house in the Georgiana area.

While one deputy took the youth to the sheriff’s office for further questioning, the manhunt’s epicenter moved to south Butler County.

Once on location, Harris questioned the youth some more via telephone and pinpointed a location where Sexton might be.

While Harris and the deputies searched, her office staff and members of the sheriff’s auxiliary compiled information from sources on where Sexton might go.

When the authorities arrived at the correct home where Sexton was left, one white male was discovered inside.

He told Harris that Sexton left in a pickup truck and a BOLO was issued for a red Nissan low-rider. As the investigation with the deputies, clerks and the auxiliary, a better description came in that they were searching for a red 1993 Nissan pickup low-rider with a white toolbox.

Harris also got a tip Sexton was headed to Florida, and it appeared that she and her deputies would come up empty handed on this search. An interstate all points bulletin was issued and the law officers began returning to Greenville.

Harris got a tip of an area Sexton might go to the Mount Zion community to try to sell a brand new microwave he took from his estranged wife’s home on Flowers Street.

Harris said she wanted to check the unpaved roads and trails in the area and she and courthouse security Guard Joseph Boutwell began checking the area.

At approximately 1:55 p.m., as she drove up to a stop sign on an unpaved road that connected to the Mount Zion Road, a red Nissan pickup low-rider passed by.

&uot;We’ve got him,&uot; she said as she drew her service revolver and began a pursuit of the vehicle.

She pulled up beside the vehicle and Sexton stuck his hands through the window.

&uot;It’s over,&uot; she said.

&uot;Keep your hands where I can see them.&uot;

Boutwell exited the sheriff’s SUV and handcuffed the man while Harris covered him and then the two of them pulled Sexton from the truck and placed him in her vehicle.

Harris said Sexton now faces charges for second-degree escape, theft first degree and could face charges for the microwave he took.

He was in jail to begin with on a parole violation and had been sentenced to three years in prison for theft of property third degree, burglary third degree and failure to appear.

The juvenile involved was not charged.

Since Sheriff Harris took office in 1995, she has had a total of six escapes made by prisoners.

Of those six, five were captured and returned to jail.

&uot;That sixth one will mess up one and reveal true identity and when he does, I can promise that we’ll be there to get him,&uot; she said.

She praised her staff for their role in keeping the number so low for escapes.

&uot;I’ve got a good department,&uot; she said.

&uot;You can run, but you’re not going to be able to hide.

Sooner or later you’re going turn up and you’re likely to turn up in the hands you fled from.&uot;