By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Mills police officers on Wednesday apprehended a fugitive from southwestern Missouri who managed to escape from his jail cell by cutting a hole in the ceiling, law enforcement officials announced.
On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Marshal’s Office notified Natrona County law personnel that Christopher Blevins, 37, was possibly in the area.
Blevins and two other inmates were discovered missing from their cell in Barry County, Missouri on June 3. Police believe the inmates escaped the night prior by cutting a hole in the cell’s ceiling to enter a water heater storage room.
The U.S. Marshal’s Office took charge of the search after the inmates’ escape.
Mills police received information that Blevins, who was reported to be armed and dangerous and driving a gold Dodge Ram with a female passenger, was possibly at the Ghost Town truck stop in Casper.
Police arrived at the gas station about 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday and observed a gold Dodge Ram with a male driver and female passenger. Once the driver saw the police, he drove off.
A chase reaching speeds of up to 80 MPH ensued for about two minutes before the driver pulled to the side of the road. He was identified as Blevins and taken into custody, more than 900 miles away from the jail he escaped.
The female passenger was not identified and was released by police, pending further investigation.
Lance Stephens and Matthew Crawford, the men who escaped with Blevins, had not yet been found by authorities as of Thursday.
According to Barry County Jail records, Blevins was booked into jail on April 4 on a litany of drug and firearm charges.
Cheyenne’s longest-serving police chief Brian Kozak, who is now running for Laramie County Sheriff, said he was surprised to hear of the escape from the Missouri jail.
“I’m shocked to hear that,” Kozak told Cowboy State Daily. “Jails need to be constructed in a manner where that can’t happen.”
Even at the newly-constructed police station in Cheyenne, where inmates are not held, the detaining and interview rooms have hardened ceilings and walls so escapes aren’t possible, he said.
“If it’s an older jail, it’s the responsibility of law enforcement to have it inspected to ensure escapes cannot occur,” he said.
If money is an issue so repairs can’t be made, Kozak said inmates need to be watched constantly.
The problem, according to Barry County Sheriff Danny Boyd, is understaffing.
“Nobody can go in the back to deal with the inmates,” Boyd told Springfield, Missouri’s KY3 TV station. “You can’t go back there by yourself. You always have to have somebody with you, which would leave the front booking office open. It’s a safety issue all the way around, and if we don’t have enough people to staff it, we have to go with what we’ve got and do it the best we can.”
The inmates were at large for more than 12 hours before the escape was discovered, according to media reports.
Mills police did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.