MIAMI — Using peanut butter to escape from the Walker County Jail in Alabama isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
Belinda Ann Weldon, an Alabama attorney familiar with the jail who represents the last of 12 inmates to be captured after escaping Sunday, said she can see how a guard watching remotely could be fooled if inmates partially obscure the number that identifies each door.
“That placard has a number on it; it’s an off-white. They covered it in peanut butter. Say the number was an 8; they made it look like a 9,” she said. “He pushed the button for a door that instead of going into a dorm went to an outside door.”
Authorities said the inexperienced guard, watching 150 inmates through security cameras from a control room, thought he was opening the cell at an inmate’s request. But a dozen inmates were able to flee, throwing off their orange jail uniforms and running in every direction.
The first 11 inmates were captured within hours of their escape, never leaving the county, but Brady Kilpatrick, 24, made it all the way to Martin County, Florida, persuading his sister to drive him, authorities said.
Martin County Sheriff William D. Snyder announced Tuesday night that investigators “zeroed in” on a house on a quiet street in Tequesta, just north of West Palm Beach, where a car with an Alabama license plate was parked outside.
A short time later, Kilpatrick was arrested, along with his sister, Jensen Davis Lefan, 18; her boyfriend, Hayden Thomas Mayberry, 24; and Mayberry’s childhood friend, Dakota Anthony, 23.
Lefan, of Cordova, Alabama, told investigators her brother called her shortly after the escape, asking for a ride. She and Mayberry borrowed a car from his roommate and picked up Kilpatrick a short time later. He hopped in and told her “Go!” according to an arrest affidavit. Five to 10 minutes later, he told them he’d escaped from jail, cutting his hands when he climbed a 15-foot fence topped with razor wire.
Lefan and Mayberry, of Jasper, Alabama, took turns driving with Kilpatrick in the backseat, she said. They ended up at the home of Anthony, a childhood friend of Mayberry’s, after stopping for food — paying in cash — and sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
She feared getting caught, but said she had to try to help her brother because “they are family,” the sheriff said.
Mayberry — who told authorities they planned to marry soon — told investigators he knew that what they did was wrong, but said “you do crazy things for love.”
In Florida, Snyder praised his department and other agencies for using a “good tactical approach” once they located the home in Tequesta, where a car with an Alabama license plate was parked outside.
“Let’s suffice it to say we had an overwhelming force and more than adequate resources as he made the unwise decision of trying to escape out of the house,” he said.
Jail records don’t list attorneys for any of the arrestees. Lefan and Mayberry face charges of facilitating escape and hindering apprehension of a fugitive in Alabama, as well as aiding and abetting a fugitive in Florida. Anthony was charged with possessing a controlled substance. Kilpatrick — initially jailed in Alabama on charges of possessing drugs and paraphernalia — now faces prosecution on much tougher crimes.
Walker County Sheriff James Underwood in Alabama did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the arrest of Kilpatrick, which happened only a few hours after he predicted it would. The other 11 fugitives had been rounded up by Monday afternoon.
Kilpatrick appeared in court Wednesday in Stuart, Florida, where a judge ordered him held without bail pending his return to Alabama. Lefan and Mayberry also remained in the jail, with $7,500 bail set for each.
Snyder said he tried to hide in the wrong county.
“Look, I don’t like to brag,” the sheriff told reporters, “but we’ve never had an escape from the Martin County Jail. I can tell you this, he won’t be getting any peanut butter.”