Residents warned that escaped inmate might have been spotted

AP News
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Posted: Jan 04, 2017 12:39 PM
Residents warned that escaped inmate might have been spotted

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) — Residents of a Massachusetts town have been warned by police that an escaped federal prisoner from Rhode Island might have been spotted in town.

Meanwhile, the warden at the detention center said he is conducting a "top to bottom investigation" of how James Morales escaped on New Year's Eve.

Framingham police on Tuesday night sent an automated call to residents telling them not to approach Morales. Authorities have said he is dangerous and may be armed. One resident of Framingham, less than an hour north of the prison where he escaped, told media outlets that Morales had banged on her door on New Year's Eve but went away.

The former Army reservist was being held at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on charges that he stole 16 guns from a U.S. Army Reserve Center in Worcester, as well as for child rape charges in Massachusetts.

Authorities say Morales, 35, escaped the privately run detention center around 6:45 p.m. Saturday by climbing a basketball hoop to reach a rooftop, cutting through a fence and climbing through razor wire. Police think Morales stole a car in Attleboro, Massachusetts, which was found Sunday in Framingham.

His escape was not discovered for more than three hours, the prison said. Correctional officers alerted law enforcement authorities of the escape at 11:43 p.m., U.S. Marshal Jamie Hainsworth said. He said he would be taking a "hard look" at what happened at the prison. Two officers have been placed on paid leave.

Warden Daniel Martin said in a statement that the internal review would include interviews with all officers on duty and all prisoners in the escaped detainee's cellblock.

WPRI-TV reported that correctional officers were being ordered to work mandatory overtime at the facility because of low staffing, and a union official told the station some were being ordered to work as much as 80 hours per week. As of October, Wyatt had just 98 correctional officers, while a full staff was considered to be 140 officers, according to board meeting minutes.

Martin said during a September meeting that the staffing problems were due to turnover prompted by low pay and excessive overtime, according to WPRI-TV.