The escape began with a shiv.

At around midnight Saturday evening, four male inmates at the Gallia County Jail in southeast Ohio set into motion a plan to flee and live on the lam, spurring a multistate search and thrusting increased scrutiny upon the maintenance and management of the facility, which has experienced a total of three breakouts in the past two months.

Three of the four escapees — Brynn Martin, Christopher Clemente and Troy McDaniel Jr. — were apprehended at a Red Roof Inn in Cary, N.C., after midnight Monday, authorities said. The fourth, Lawrence Lee III, was taken into custody Monday afternoon in Durham, N.C.

The Gallia County Sheriff’s Office said they considered all four men to be “extremely dangerous.”

“I thank our God that our corrections officers were not seriously injured in this escape,” Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin said at a news conference Sunday. “And I pray that no others will be injured taking them back into custody.”

****UPDATE**** Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin has released an update regarding the inmates who escaped from the...

Posted by Gallia County Sheriff on Monday, September 30, 2019

At any given time, Champlin said, there are two officers overseeing 35 to 50 people in general population at the jail, which has 22 beds and employs nine full-time officers — four women and five men.

The night of the escape, two male corrections officers were scheduled to work, Champlin said, but both called in sick. Two female corrections officers took their place.

At 12:14 a.m. Sunday, the male inmates — one of whom had escaped the jail before — overpowered the two female guards on duty with a “homemade weapon” described as a “shank,” Champlin said at the news conference. They gained access to the administrative wing of the facility, stole the keys to a corrections officer’s vehicle and forced open a secure door.

Once outside, the inmates climbed inside the officer’s car and drove it one block south, to a city park that runs parallel to the Ohio River, which divides the states of Ohio and West Virginia.

There, the men abandoned the stolen vehicle and drove away in a different vehicle that was waiting for them, authorities said. Law enforcement from the city of Gallipolis, Gallia County and the Ohio State Highway Patrol “converged,” Champlin said, working with authorities in two other states throughout the night to find the men.

During the news conference Sunday, Champlin said authorities in Pennsylvania had located the second vehicle in which the men had fled. An award of up to $2,500 per escapee was offered for relevant information. At 2 a.m. Monday, the sheriff’s office said investigators “were able to develop information” that led to the apprehension of McDaniel, 30, Clemente, 23, and Martin, 40.

Martin escaped custody earlier this month with another man while the two were being driven in a transport vehicle to the Gallia County Jail. Both were wearing orange jumpsuits and shackles on their legs and ankles. After a short standoff, the men were discovered hiding in a crawl space of a home in Gallia County and taken back to jail, reported News Channel 3 WSAZ.

Champlin headed off criticism of jail procedures at his news conference Sunday, acknowledging the ways insufficient space, decades-old facilities and limited staffing have negatively affected the upkeep of the jail. Part of Champlin’s plan to improve crowding, he told reporters, was to ship some Gallia County inmates to neighboring county jails.

This is what they did with Martin after his first attempt to escape in early September, Champlin said. But Martin had returned to Gallia County for a court hearing, Champlin said, providing the circumstances for his second breakout.

The jail, Champlin said, is not equipped to handle the influx of inmates, or the mental health and substance abuse challenges they’re facing. Decades ago, the facility was transformed from individual cells to a dormlike space that could hold more people — making it difficult to separate nonviolent offenders from violent ones.

“Bad men continue to try to fight to free themselves to terrorize our community,” Champlin said at the news conference. “I won’t stop fighting the criminal element that’s been plaguing our Gallia County and other counties like ours.”

The scope of questions from reporters and community members extended beyond the three escape attempts since August, touching on multiple shortcomings that prompted an emergency county commissioner meeting and an investigation into jail protocol by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

In the past three weeks, two people serving time at the jail have died. One man, David “Tommy” Gibson, died by suicide, Champlin said, and the other, 35-year-old Lacey Wolford, died of a drug overdose, reported the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.

Sherry Russell, the mother of Gibson, 27, challenged the sheriff during his news conference, asking what the county was doing to make the jail more safe. David Gibson, she said, was suffering from withdrawal when he ended his life. She and others present criticized the jail for not providing him proper supervision and failing to grant him a medical evaluation in a timely manner.

Russell, who told the Daily Tribune she was a nurse practitioner, engaged in an impassioned and emotional dialogue with the sheriff, during which he acknowledged her concerns but deferred many of them to the pending investigation.

“Your job is to protect the men that are in your facility,” Russell said. “He [Gibson] made some bad choices. He did not deserve to die.”

Champlin said he takes responsibility for the successes and failures of the jail, and spoke of short-term and long-term plans he said his staff have begun to implement since he took office 2½ years ago.

But Russell told reporters after the news conference that she felt she wasn’t given “any real answers” about the condition of the jail.

“I feel like we were being pacified and given the politically correct answers,” Russell told the Daily Tribune. “It’s obviously been a problem for a while. We’ve had deaths in the past year and numerous escapes.”

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