Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

TOP STORY >> Local man is tied to daring prison break

Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville man is one of three arrested by the State Police in connection with the escape of two convicted killers from the Arkansas Department of Correctionís Cummins Unit at Grady on Friday.

Michael Stephenson, 50, was arrested Saturday, along with Deanna Davison and Ryan McKinney, both of North Little Rock. All three were charged with a felony count of furnishing an implement of escape by leaving a 2003 Hyundai Sonata in the prison parking lot for the escapees to use in their getaway.

The State Police arenít saying how the three knew the two escapees, Jeffrey Grinder, 32, and Calvin Adams, 39. Neither of the inmates seem to have any Jacksonville connections.

State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said the escape is still under investigation and it could take weeks before itís completed.

Grinder and Adams walked out of the prison Friday wearing correctional officer uniforms that are made at Cummins, got into the Sonata and drove off shortly after the 6 p.m. head count. The pair was not noticed as missing until the 10 p.m. head count.

Authorities had leads over the weekend that the two were near Kalamazoo, Mich., and arrested them Tuesday in New York after they tried to speed away from police and crashed into a tree about 90 miles southeast of Buffalo.

The escapees were in the same car that had been left for them at the Cummins Unit prison.

Arkansas Correction Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler said the chase began when a New York trooper tried to stop the menís car for speeding.

Both were caught after the car crashed and they tried to run away, she said. No one was hurt and neither man was armed.

According to police reports, the chase reached high speeds and went on for about 20 miles in Allegheny County in rural western New York, just north of the Pennsylvania state line.

Tyler said Monday that five guards at the Cummins Unit had been placed on unpaid leave while the department investigates the escape. She did not name the officers but said they were guarding the entry and exit points at the prison.

Adams, from Laetrile, was convicted in 1995 in the 1994 kidnapping and murder of Richard Austin, 25, a banker. Austinís wife was wounded and walked more than a mile to summon help.

Grinder is from Yellville and was convicted of capital murder, aggravated robbery and burglary in the 2003 beating death of Pat Gardner, 77, who lived near Springdale.