Texas prisoner captured after week on the run

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2009 5:49 PM

A convicted sex offender who was the subject of a weeklong manhunt after pulling off a daring escape during a prison transfer was captured Monday after authorities received several phone tips, including one from a salesman who recognized the inmate outside his business.

A hungry, wet and barefoot Arcade Joseph Comeaux Jr. was caught in northeast Houston, about 25 miles northwest of where he escaped, said Alfredo Perez, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service. The area is heavily wooded but includes various businesses, a charter school and some residential neighborhoods.

Comeaux, 49, was in a wheelchair Nov. 30 when he pulled a gun on two guards and fired it during a transfer from a prison unit in Huntsville to one in Beaumont. The guards, who were unharmed, were forced to drive to the Baytown area, where Comeaux took their weapons, handcuffed them together and ran away.

Officials are still investigating how Comeaux got the pistol and why he was allowed to use a wheelchair since he was able to flee on foot, said John Moriarty, inspector general with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

He had two pistols on him, but investigators don't know if they were the same ones he took from the guards, Perez said. Comeaux also took one of the guard's uniforms and boots. He was still wearing the uniform when he was arrested, Perez said.

Brian Boyd, a salesman at a company that rents and sells cranes, said he was outside his business when he spotted Comeaux standing in a ditch by the side of the road, trying to hitchhike, around 7:15 a.m. Monday.

Comeaux then walked along the road, came to the company's front door and asked if he could use the phone, Boyd said.

"He was all muddy, wearing black clothing," Boyd said. "He was real calm. He looked just wiped out. He had both pants legs taped up."

Comeaux sat on the curb outside the building while Boyd went inside. Boyd said he was 80 percent certain the man was the escaped prisoner, but he looked up his picture on the Internet to make sure and then called Houston police.

Perez said authorities also had received another tip about Comeaux possibly being seen outside a nearby school earlier Monday.

By the time Boyd returned outside, Comeaux had walked to the business next door, a company that sells equipment to the oil and gas industry. He asked employees if he could make a telephone call, said Kathy Alexander, a manager at the company.

After talking on the phone, Comeaux asked if someone could call him a cab. Alexander said the employees gave him some coffee and had him wait in the front lobby.

"Brian (Boyd) came by and said he had called the police because he suspected it was the escapee," Alexander said. "He sat out there in our foyer, drinking his coffee until the police came in and arrested him."

Houston police officer Adrian Rodriguez, one of two officers who arrested Comeaux at 7:40 a.m., said the prisoner was wet "from head to toe and looked like he (had been) sleeping outside."

"The only thing he said was he was hungry and he wasn't going to talk until he got something to eat," Rodriguez said.

He said Comeaux walked with a limp and needed help getting to the patrol car.

Comeaux was serving a sentence of life in prison for a 1998 aggravated sexual assault conviction in Brazos County, northwest of Houston.

He was given two extra life sentences after being convicted of stabbing his wife and another person in 1999 while she visited him in prison. Both survived the attack.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Comeaux has been in and out of the Texas prison system for the last 30 years on various charges, including rape of a child, indecency with a child and burglary.