Jail-escape attempt by front-loader fizzles out

Posted: Monday, November 22, 2004

FAIRBANKS - Two people were arrested early Sunday following an investigation into a failed jail break attempt in Fairbanks, Alaska State Troopers said.

Fairbanks residents Misty Hoffman, 28, and Joseph Gillespie, 24, were arrested shortly before 4:30 a.m. during a traffic stop by troopers. The two were arrested on unrelated drug charges and are being investigated as suspects in the attempted jail break, said Sgt. Lantz Dahlke.

More suspects have been identified, Dahlke said.

A stolen front-end loader was used early Saturday to ram into the Fairbanks Correctional Center in a suspected plot to break out a prisoner, authorities said.

Two fences were knocked down and the wall of the inmate housing area was slammed two to three times early Saturday, said prison Superintendent Charles Stevenson.

After failing to knock down the wall with the heavy equipment, the driver abandoned the machinery at a nearby motel and got away, Stevenson said.

"Nobody was hurt. No prisoners escaped," he said.

The incident occurred about 1:30 a.m. Saturday when the facility's estimated 220 prisoners were locked in their cells, Stevenson said.

Numerous troopers and police officers were called to the scene. Some were on standby due to the security breach, others were hunting for the driver, who initially tried to flee on a snowmachine that was parked at the prison, Stevenson said.

"The person couldn't get the snowmachine started," Stevenson said.

The troopers' Bureau of Investigation is in charge of the probe into the would-be prison break.

The mood among prisoners has remained "pretty calm," said Stevenson.

The prison tightened security, 48 inmates were moved to different cells and the prison remained on lockdown throughout Saturday while investigators conducted interviews, Stevenson said.



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