Indiana police are on alert for two men who escaped from the Putnam County Jail before dawn Wednesday. The sheriff suspects the pair killed a 66-year-old woman and left the state in her car.
Putnam County deputies said Doni Ray Brown, 23, of Satsuma and Timothy Wayne Fletcher, 25, of Welaka, broke out of the jail about 4 a.m. Wednesday. The two men shared a jail cell and escaped using a small, hydraulic jack that one of them pried loose from a transport van while returning from a hearing at the courthouse.
Putnam County deputies said the pair stole a pickup truck from a business about a mile from the home, then went to the home of Fletcher's 66-year-old stepgrandmother, Helen Googe. Later in the day Googe was found dead and her car was missing.
Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy said the autopsy showed that Googe was the victim of a homicide, but didn't say how she was killed.
Early Thursday morning, Googe's car was found abandoned 700 miles north in Monroe County, Ky., and authorities believe Brown and Fletcher then stole an Oldsmobile Alero.
Kentucky State Trooper Billy Gregory said he had information from Florida authorities that the two were believed headed for Crawfordsville, Ind.
Indiana State Police said they and other police agencies had increased patrols in the Crawfordsville area, about 45 miles northwest of Indianapolis.
"We have reliable information about why we believe these individuals may come to Crawfordsville, but we are not going to disclose that information," Crawfordsville Police Chief Kurt Knecht told the Journal & Courier of Lafayette.
A Shelbyville, Ky, woman told police she is certain one of two escaped inmates from Florida stopped at her home to ask for directions to Eminence, Ky., and also mentioned Indiana.
She called police after seeing media reports of the escaped inmates. She said she saw at least three men riding in a black, late model two-door Honda or Toyota Thursday afternoon.
Friday afternoon, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office announced the U.S. Marshals Service was assisting in the manhunt and was considering adding Brown and Fletcher to its list of most wanted fugitives. The sheriff's office also asked for help from the Fox TV show "America's Most Wanted" in getting word out nationwide about the escapees.
Hardy said Brown and Fletcher were considered suspects in the Googe's slaying, but had not been charged. He said they should be considered armed and dangerous.
The viewing and funeral for Googe will be held at the Johnson Oveturf Funeral Home in Palatka. The viewing is Sunday at 4 p.m. The funeral will be held Monday at 11 a.m.
Brown was arrested Aug. 17 and charged with robbery with a firearm. Fletcher was arrested March 3 on three counts of failure to appear on an aggravated assault charge. Channel 4 learned both have a long criminal history not limited to Putnam County.
After refusing to say for two days how the men had escaped, Putnam County Capt. Dick Schauland on Friday said Fletcher pried loose the "bottle jack" from the van and smuggled it into the jail in a cast he was wearing on his leg in preparation for foot surgery.
Sometime after all of the prisoners were locked in their cells Tuesday night, Fletcher and Brown used the jack to jack up the sink/toilet combination appliance from the wall of their cell and shimmy through into a small maintenance corridor called a "chase."
Schauland said the two crawled to an access door that opens into the inner perimeter fenced yard, then dug a hole under the inner fence finally reaching the outer fence. Schauland said Brown and Fletcher apparently squeezed between a gate and the outer fence to make their escape.
Anyone who sees the inmates or a vehicle matching the description of the one stolen is asked to call the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 386-329-0800 or Crime Stoppers at 888-277-TIPS.