Search continues for two escapees

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- If bad luck really does come in threes, then Bollinger County has had its fair share, said Sheriff Terry Wiseman.

"So far, this year's been hell," Wiseman said.

Two fugitives, Casey Legate, 20, of Bollinger County and Paul Lutes, 23, of Wayne County, who overpowered a dispatcher early Sunday to make their escape, remained at large late Monday.

The escape is the latest headache for the county, which has had to deal with the aftermath of a tornado and floods in the last month.

The sheriff, deputies and other law enforcement officials continued to search, and distributed posters with the fugitives' photographs in the area and surrounding counties.

Legate was in jail on drug charges after he was picked up for attempting to make methamphetamine. Lutes was in jail on armed robbery charges.

Both now face felony escape charges in addition to their original crimes.

The sheriff said he's been following up on several leads, but so far nothing's panned out.

Became overconfident

The dispatcher wasn't seriously injured during the escape, Wiseman said.

"She's fine, bruised up a little. It's her ego that's hurt really bad," Wiseman said.

He said the dispatcher, who'd been working at the jail for several years, became overconfident.

Wiseman said the prisoners told the dispatcher they had spilled something and needed a mop to clean it up.

"She opened the door a little bit to slide the mop bucket through, and that's when it happened," he said.

Jail policy is not to open a cell door unless a deputy is present. The dispatcher was the only person on duty about 6 a.m. Sunday, when she was attacked.

Wiseman said the county can't afford to have deputies at the jail around the clock.

The sheriff's department employs seven deputies and nine dispatchers. Four of the dispatchers are part time.

Two of the deputies are paid for with state and federal grant money and are required by grant guidelines to spend the majority of their time as a DARE officer and a full-time drug task force officer, respectively.

"That leaves me five road officers for a patrol that includes 900 miles of gravel roads," Wiseman said.

And the sheriff's department budget will get even tighter after claims are made for all the overtime earned in the past month.

"It's going to really deplete us," Wiseman said. "They say trouble comes in threes, so hopefully, this is it as far as disasters."

abuchanan@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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