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Local law enforcement are on high alert as a manhunt is on for three fugitives who escaped an Indiana prison on Friday, March 20.
Authorities believe there is a possibility the escapees could be headed toward Grant County because one of the men, 59-year-old Jerry Sargent, is from Williamstown.
Sargent, who has family in the area, was serving a 50-year sentence at Branchville Correctional Facility near Tell City, Ind., for robbery and criminal confinement.
Sargent’s earliest possible release date was Jan. 7, 2023.
At age 22, Sargent was arrested for arson in a 1973 fire that destroyed the old Dry Ridge elementary school building. Chicken, turkey, cooking utensils, bread and miscellaneous food items recovered at the Sargent residence at the time was believed to have been stolen from the school.
“He could be headed here,” said Kentucky State Police Trooper Rick Saint-Blancard, public affairs officer for Post 6 in Dry Ridge. “There’s a lot of speculation. We can speculate that he’s comfortable with this area and he knows it. He is with two other people who may know how to navigate through other areas.”
The other fugitives, 31-year-old Bobby Cockerell and 49-year-old Christopher Marshall, are both from Indiana.
The men were last seen wearing flannel shirts and blue jeans and driving a stolen 1998 Ford Ranger, dull green 4X4 super cab with a Kentucky registration plate.
“We’re all looking out for him,” Saint-Blancard said. “We sent information out to all the retirees to keep their eyes out for this particular vehicle. How long they’re going to stay in that vehicle, we don’t know.”
“With this thing being a media deal, we’re getting calls of sightings everywhere,” he said. “They seem to be sighted all over our post area. We’re following up and doing due diligence on those that are relatively credible.”
Several law enforcement agencies gathered in Jonesville on Monday, March 23, after a citizen reported seeing the escapees.
However, the sighting could not be confirmed.
Police from Dry Ridge, Williamstown, KSP, the Grant County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Marshals went out in pairs during the early morning hours of March 24 scouring for signs of the escapees or their vehicle which they may have abandoned.
“I’ve told my officers that if they happen to come in contact to not stop them, lay back, call for back up and use extreme caution,” Williamstown Police Chief Bobby Webb said. “I told the nightshift guys to watch for any vehicles that come through town that seem out of place that they’ve not seen before, especially with those that have three subjects in it. I also told them to be seen around the interchanges and the businesses, especially those that are open late.”
Grant County Sheriff Chuck Dills warned the public to lock their homes and vehicles.
“They’ve already invaded one home in Carroll County, so it’s more than likely they’d do it again,” he said.
Grant County Schools Superintendent Michael Hibbett said he has asked the school resource officer at Grant County Middle and High School to move around between schools frequently as a precaution.
“Our resource officers are all sheriff deputies so they know everything that the sheriff’s department knows,” he said. “So, that communication line is open and our resource officer would know immediately if there was any danger of these people being around.”
“I think we’re taking every precaution that we possibly can,” Hibbett said. “Everybody is at heightened level here.”
As for the public, Webb warned that residents should call 911 immediately and not approach the fugitives if they happen to see them.
“I hope that we get these guys caught and everybody is safe when they’re caught,” he said. “I hope no one gets hurt in the general public and in law enforcement.”