Article 11: January 2022
County has largest jailbreak in its history
By Chris Willingham
Four inmates escaped from the county jail Thursday in the largest jail escape in county history and the first jail escape here in 23 years.
The four escapees are all extremely dangerous, all having been convicted of multiple felonies and one is a verified 107 Hoover gang member with strong gang ties in Oklahoma City, the OSBI said Friday.
The escapees are Jerome Rutherford Jr., 23, Justin Michael Hughes, 20, Donnie Kale Middlebrooks, 21, and Kolby Russell Watson, 28.
Newly-appointed jail administrator and former undersheriff Larry Hendrix had only been administrator for six weeks when the escapes occurred.
The sheriff’s department put out a short press release early Friday, but the release only told a part of the story and also appeared to downplay how dangerous the four escapees are.
A one paragraph in the sheriff’s office Facebook press release said, “these inmates were being held on charges for distribution, possessing stolen property, and narcotics charges.”
However, according to court records, all four men have multiple felony convictions ranging from child abuse, drug possession and selling, burglaries, thefts and assaults.
Rutherford has six felony convictions, Watson and Middlebrooks each have five and Hughes has two, records show.
The sheriff’s department press release said the four were discovered missing during a routine head count at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
But jail sources for this newspaper said Middlebrooks and Watson escaped early Thursday morning and no one realized it until after it was learned that Rutherford and Hughes were missing at 8:30 p.m.
Only then was a headcount done, the sources said.
An officer’s affidavit said Rutherford learned early Thursday that Middlebrooks had escaped through the roof in H block, but Rutherford was being housed in J block on Thursday.
Somehow, Rutherford and another inmate were moved from J block to H block on Thursday prior to Rutherford’s escape, the affidavit says.
While doing the headcount, a jailer heard a noise coming from the shower area and upon looking, saw an inmate’s lower torso hanging out of the ceiling, trying to escape through the roof.
That man, a 20-year-old, will face additional charges of attempt to escape from a penal institution. He was transferred to the Idabel city jail.
The jailer said he heard footsteps on the roof as he pulled the 20-year-old down from the ceiling.
The air conditioning duct work has access to the roof of the jail, where the four escapees are believed to have climbed down to the ground.
Jail clothing was found on the roof of the jail and Idabel police later found a jail uniform in a dumpster at Idabel Middle School.
At 8:51 p.m. all officers currently on shift were dispatched to the county jail for a large commotion within the jail.
Once it was learned that the four had escaped, Idabel police began intensely searching buildings and throughout city limits, which continued throughout the night.
The sheriff’s department, Choctaw Tribal Police, the OSBI and U.S. Marshals are also involved in the manhunt.
In its investigation of the escape, this newspaper learned that inmates have been routinely getting in and out of the jail through the roof at night since early December. Multiple inmates have been reportedly leaving the jail to pick up drugs, cell phones and beer from a nearby convenience store and then going back into the jail through the roof duct work.
Former sheriff’s department detective Devin Black uncovered an organized drug ring within the jail in 2021, prior to Black being fired from the sheriff’s department amongst a series of scandals involving the department’s administration, which has been covered at length by this newspaper.
In that case, inmates were sneaking meth, marijuana, and cell phones into the jail, mostly inside Skoal containers which had been placed in an outside trash dumpster.
Another former sheriff’s detective also uncovered another jail drug ring in 2021 prior to quitting in December.
Former sheriff’s narcotics detective John Jones found at least 18 people involved in bringing drugs into the jail after inmates purchased the drugs using cell phones.
Anyone with information about the escapes should call 911.