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Prisoner Escapes St. Mary's Center

By Arthur Santana
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 5, 2004; Page SM03

A Leonardtown man, who had about five months left on his sentence at the St. Mary's County Detention Center, is now facing up to 10 years in prison for bolting from the facility Tuesday and fleeing into the nearby woods, where he eluded authorities, the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office said.

Jesse Aaron Garner, 24, who remained at large Friday, had begun serving a six-month sentence July 23 at the Leonardtown facility for nonpayment of child support, Sheriff David D. Zylak said.

Garner had been authorized by a judge to take part in a program that allows inmates at the correctional facility to go to work during the day and return to the facility during non-working hours to serve their sentences, Zylak said.

When Garner arrived back at the detention center about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, authorities informed him that they had discovered a violation of detention center rules, Zylak said. He declined to specify what the violation was.

If Garner was found to have violated rules at the jail, his work-release privileges would have been revoked, Zylak said.

"He was going to be put back in the population pending a hearing," Zylak said.

That apparently so upset Garner that he bolted from the facility and into the nearby woods behind the detention center, where correctional officers gave chase to the wood line.

"They didn't pursue him into the woods, nor would I have wanted them to," Zylak said. "They needed to return back to their posts."

Authorities summoned a helicopter and police dogs, but after about an hour with no sign of Garner, the search was called off. "Unfortunately, he eluded us," Zylak said.

For the felony of escape, Garner could face a sentence "a whole lot more than what he had," Zylak said, specifically up to 10 years. If Garner had not bothered to return from work that day, he would have been charged with misdemeanor escape instead of felony escape.

"The warrant for his escape is not going to go away," Zylak said. "It would be better for him just to turn himself in and get this behind him."


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