(JACKSON COUNTY, Ark.) — A prisoner accused of breaking out of an Arkansas jail by escaping through a roof with another man has died after crashing his car during a police pursuit.
Steven Mitchell, 39, was killed Tuesday afternoon after he led police on a car chase through the state of Missouri, Jackson County, Ark., Sheriff David Lucas told ABC News.
“During the pursuit, Mitchell wrecked his vehicle and sustained fatal injuries, which led to his death,” Lucas said.
Mitchell had been jailed at the Jackson County Detention Center in Arkansas on a first-degree battery charge before escaping late Sunday night with another prisoner, Steven Reed, 22, according to Lucas.
On Monday night, officers conducting ground searches found Reed in a rural community northwest of Jackson County and took him into custody.
Missouri police contacted Lucas Tuesday around noon to say a highway patrol officer had pulled over a white Nissan Sentra for speeding and found Mitchell and his wife inside, Lucas said.
Mitchell’s wife, Jessica Mitchell, was in custody in Mountain View, Mo., and was scheduled to have an extradition hearing Wednesday morning to be returned to Arkansas. Police in Arkansas hoped to question her about whether she was involved in the escape, Lucas said.
Jessica Mitchell was driving the car as Steven Mitchell sat in the front passenger seat when it was stopped, according to Lucas. But, he added, when the officer asked Mitchell’s wife to step out of the vehicle, Mitchell jumped into the driver’s seat and sped off.
“At that point, the officer lost the visual on Mitchell’s car. But then I got a second call, a few hours later, saying that Missouri police had located Mitchell a second time and were undergoing a vehicle pursuit,” Lucas said.
Mitchell was killed during that second chase.
Missouri police were conducting the investigation on the cause of Mitchell’s accident.
Reed was arraigned Tuesday morning in Newport, Ark., and charged with first-degree escape. He was returned to jail with a bond set at $1 million.
Before the escape late Sunday, Reed had been jailed awaiting transport to the Arkansas Department of Corrections for a parole violation, Lucas said.
“They went into a cell that was in a blind spot from the cameras and removed the light fixture from the ceiling,” Lucas said. “All they had to do was enlarge the hole and gain access to the attic. From there, they escaped through the roof.”
The inmates were discovered missing on Monday morning approximately 10 hours after they escaped.
“Our jail staff were doing a head count that morning, and the two inmates were missing,” Lucas said. “We started going through all the correspondences the inmates had, their phone calls and their family histories. We also conducted searches throughout the area.”
“The inmates had a considerable head start on us,” Lucas added, “which is totally unacceptable and this is something I am addressing.”
The Jackson County Detention Center is designed to hold 26 inmates, but holds, on average, 50 inmates.
“I am not making excuses, but it is hard when you have limited staff and are underfunded and overcrowded,” Lucas said.
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