Inmate escapee arrested in Jacksonville

42-year-old escaped from Columbia County Detention Facility

LAKE CITY, Fla. - A 42-year-old inmate who escaped Wednesday from the Columbia County Detention Facility was captured Thursday morning in Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Steve Roberts at about 11:30 a.m. at an apartment in the 7200 block of Crane Avenue on the Southside. Investigators said a tip led them to Roberts, who was staying with a friend.

The marshals said they surprised him, and he didn't resist arrest. Roberts was booked into the Duval County jail.

"At one point at this apartment complex right here he came outside," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Silvestre R. Del Rosario. "We identified him 100 percent. We converged as a team together, waited until we set up a plan and we got in the apartment. Pretty much the element of surprise. He had no idea we were there. No incident when we got him in custody."

People living in the complex had no idea what was happening. They had heard of the escape but did not know Roberts was hiding out there.

"We had some problems before, but lately it's been very quiet," resident Kathy Lewis said.

Investigators said that at about 4 a.m. Wednesday, an inmate told detention deputies that Roberts escaped during the night.

Deputies believe Roberts left sometime after lights out on Tuesday night by climbing through ductwork and forcing a vent cover off, allowing him access to the outside of the facility. Investigators said it is highly unlikely Roberts acted alone, and deputies were interviewing the other inmates.

Deputies said Roberts had lived off Normandy Boulevard before his arrest.

Roberts has a long criminal history, having 15 arrests on charges ranging from weapons possession and resisting arrest to auto theft and burglary.

Escaping from jail is not knew to him. In 1997, Roberts was with two others prisoners who escaped from the St. John County jail. They forced open a fire escape door and ran from the property.

A month later, Roberts was found hiding out in a hotel room in New Orleans. Because of that escape, St Johns County deputies learned there were security problems at the jail and made major changes.

Recently, Roberts was serving time in Lake city on drug, weapon and resisting arrest charges.

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