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Two prison inmates escape in Huntsville; officer killed

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two inmates working in a prison field overpowered a guard on horseback on Monday and killed her when they ran her over in a stolen pickup truck after exchanging gunfire with officers, prison officials said.

The inmates, in prison for murder and attempted capital murder, were both recaptured. One was apprehended within an hour. The second was caught hiding in a tree about two hours later, after a manhunt that included a police helicopter, Stetson-hatted lawmen on horseback and bloodhounds.

Jerry Martin, 37, who had been imprisoned since 1997 and was serving a 50-year sentence for attempted murder, was found in the tree wearing only boxer shorts after dogs picked up his scent, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said. He did not resist arrest. "He apparently believed that by shedding his clothing he could avoid the scent of the tracking dogs," Lyons said. She said Martin did not appear to be hurt.

Lyons said that they will at least face felony escape charges, but it hasn't been determined yet what charges they'll face in the death of the officer.

Martin and John Ray Falk, a 40-year-old serving a life sentence since 1986 for a Matagorda County murder, were among 76 inmates working in a garden outside the Wynne Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice just north of Huntsville on Monday morning. They were being guarded by six officers, Lyons said.

At about 10:10 a.m. in the field along Interstate 45, one of the two inmates who ended up escaping approached officer Susan Canfield to ask her to hold what officials believe was a watch, Lyons said. When Canfield, who was on horseback, reached for the object, a struggle ensued and the inmate got her weapon. The second inmate was also able to get another officer's weapon, Lyons said.

The two inmates exchanged gunfire with officers, stole a Huntsville city truck from a nearby parking area and ran over Canfield on horseback as she tried to stop them, Lyons said. She said many details are still sketchy and it is not clear who was driving the truck. It is not known what happened to the horse.

Canfield, 59, of New Waverly, had been a corrections officer for seven years, Lyons said.

The inmates dumped the pickup about a mile away, and then confronted a woman in a bank drive-through in Huntsville and took her car. By then, the Huntsville police were in pursuit and shot out a tire in that car.

The inmates then jumped out of the woman's vehicle and Falk was caught at about 11 a.m., Lyons said.

Martin was captured at about 1:40 p.m. in a wooded area west of I-45 and south of state highway 30, about a mile or two south of where the officer was killed. The search for him included numerous state and local law enforcement agencies.

Lyons said it was "too early to say" if the escape was planned or spur of the moment.

Lyons said that officials have recovered the stolen weapons.

Based on their good disciplinary record in prison, Martin and Falk were classified as a minimum security inmates and assigned to do field work outside the prison under the supervision of officers.

"In this case, obviously, something went wrong," Lyons said.

The Wynne Unit, established in 1883, is one of the oldest in the Texas prison system. It holds about 2,600 inmates of various custody levels. The unit is about 80 miles north of Houston and shares about 1,500 acres with two other prisons that straddle the main freeway between Houston and Dallas.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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