On Sunday a dozen inmates escaped from a Walker County jail not by cutting through steel bars, drilling through walls or ripping a toilet from a wall.
Instead, Walker County Sheriff Jim Underwood told reporters, the inmates used peanut butter to make the number on one of the cell doors look like the number on a door leading to the outside of the jail. An inmate then asked an unsuspecting jail guard in the control room to open his cell, saying he needed to get back in.
But unknown to the guard, he had inadvertently unlocked the door that opened to the outside.
“That may sound crazy, but these people are crazy like a fox,” Underwood said.
Underwood said the inmates’ plan was “well laid out,” and they took advantage of an inexperienced employee.
“This is one time we slipped up. I’m not going to make excuses. It was a human error that caused this to happen. … He’s a young guy, hadn’t been here that long,” Underwood said of the guard, whom he did not name.
The 12 inmates then used blankets to cover and climb over a razor-wire fence that surrounds the Walker County Jail in Jasper, Ala., northwest of Birmingham. Several of them rode in one truck, while the others ran in different directions, Underwood said.
Eleven were quickly recaptured.
The Walker County Sheriff’s Office said its investigators “developed information” about Kilpatrick, which led them hundreds of miles southeast, to Florida. Kilpatrick, who was in jail on drug possession charges, was captured in Tequesta, Fla., which is more than 750 miles from Jasper.
The sheriff’s office said two people from Walker County — 24-year-old Hayden Mayberry and 18-year-old Jensen Davis Lefan — are facing charges in Alabama for facilitating escape and hindering apprehension of escape, and in Florida for aiding and abetting a fugitive.
The inmates who escaped are between 18 and 30. Two are in jail on attempted murder charges. The others are charged with crimes such as burglary, theft, drug charges, domestic violence, breaking and entering and disorderly conduct.
Underwood said the inmates will face additional charges as a result of the escape. Others who helped them after they escaped will also be charged. He did not say what will happen to the jail guard, only telling reporters, “We’re going to take care of that matter.”
Underwood said this is the first time inmates escaped while he has been in charge of the jail.
“It happens. Escapes happen,” he told reporters, citing two other counties that had the same problem. “When you deal with people because you locked them up, they’re still criminals. They’re going to continue what they’re going. They don’t become nice just because you got them locked in jail.”
He added: “So we got some evil people down here, and they scheme all the time to con us and our employees here at the jail. You have to stay on your toes.”
The nearly 20-year-old facility has 240 inmates, Underwood said.
Underwood also acknowledged that the jail needs some improvements, such as installing more monitors and cameras.
What is likely the most famous prison escape in recent years happened in 2015, when two convicted murderers used power tools to drill through steel walls and pipes inside a maximum-security prison in Upstate New York. Hundreds of law enforcement officers swarmed neighborhood streets in a manhunt that lasted for three weeks. A prison worker was charged with helping the men escape by smuggling power tools into the facility.
In a recent jailbreak in Oklahoma, two inmates attempted to break out by climbing through the jail’s ventilation system. They were caught but were able to flee again through the vent system three months later, when they were joined by two more inmates. Last December, six Tennessee inmates escaped by ripping loose a stainless steel toilet mounted to a wall. They were all arrested a few days later.
In Southern California in January 2016, three inmates cut through steel bars in the facility’s dormitory and went through plumbing tunnels to reach the roof. They then used blankets as a rope to get down to the ground. One of the three — the last to be captured — was found 400 miles away in San Francisco more than a week later.
This post, originally published on July 31, has been updated.