Manhunt under way for escapee from New Jersey psychiatric hospital

Reuters News
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Posted: May 05, 2016 4:12 PM

(Reuters) - The manhunt for an inmate who escaped a New Jersey psychiatric hospital entered its third day on Thursday amid heightened security at schools in the Jersey Shore town of Barnegat after he was spotted at a drugstore there.

Arthur Buckel, 38, was discovered missing on Tuesday from a minimum security unit at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Hammonton, said Captain Jack Sramaty, spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor's office.

Buckel, who was two weeks away from parole after serving a three-year sentence for aggravated assault, drug possession and burglary, had previously served a 25-year sentence for manslaughter in the killing of a 10-month-old baby, he said.

Schools in Barnegat, about 50 miles (80 km) east of the hospital, remained under police guard on Thursday after Buckel was spotted on Wednesday shopping at a CVS drugstore there. School Superintendent Karen Wood said the stepped-up security was expected to extend into Friday for all 3,100 students in the district. Students will have recess inside and police would supervise arrivals, dismissals and athletic practices.

Dozens of law enforcement officers from surrounding towns were searching for Buckel, Sramaty said. Residents were warned to keep their doors locked and vehicles secured.

"He wasn't armed on Tuesday morning when he left the prison but who knows what he's found," Sramaty said.

Matthew Schuman, a spokesman for the state's Department of Corrections, said the department's canine and fugitive units were part of the search effort, along with numerous law enforcement agencies.

Buckel had been set to reach parole eligibility on May 21, Schuman said, and could now face an additional three to five years in prison for escaping.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Additional reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Alistair Bell)