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An Indiana prison break has led authorities into Kentucky, where three Carroll County men were beaten and tied up Monday, March 23, in a home on State Hwy. 36 East, just south of Interstate 71.
Their attackers are believed to be the three men who escaped Friday morning from Branchville Correctional Facility in Tell City, Ind.
Law enforcement, including U.S. Marshalls, were still searching Tuesday for escapees Jerry Sargent, 59; Christopher Marshall, 49; and Bobby Cockerell, 31. A report by the Perry County (Ind.) News, a sister paper of The News-Democrat, said the men are believed to have escaped the medium-security prison after 8:15 a.m. that day, when they were last seen by prison officials. They allegedly made the escape after two of them, Marshall and Sargent, beat a prison employee and left him tied up in the prison weld shop.
The first call from the prison to Tell City police was made at 9:46 a.m., according to the News. The injured employee was flown to University Hospital in Louiville, Ky., where he was being treated for head injuries and said to be in stable condition. Nick Zellers, public information officer for the Branchville facility, said officials there believe the trio stole a pair of lineman’s pliers and cut their way through two security fences outside the prison.
The paper further reported that police officers involved in the search, communicating by radio, reported holes found in two security fences outside the prison. Prison officials, however, would not say if this was how the men escaped.
Teams of searchers, some with bloodhounds and police dogs, combed areas of Perry County late Friday afternoon.
On Sunday, law enforcement officials said the three men stole a 1989 Ford F150 extended cab truck near St. Croix, Ind., early that morning. That vehicle was found abandoned that afternoon on Interstate 71 near mile marker 49 in Carroll County, about 3:30 p.m. The find was reported on television news, and area residents were warned to be on the alert for the men.
Carroll County Sheriff Ben Smith said Monday that he had received calls from residents in the county who thought they may have spotted the fugitives.
Kentucky State Police Detective Sgt. Vic Hubbach said 20 troopers from KSP Post 5, Campbellsburg, assisted by officers from the U.S. Marshal’s office in Louisville, and the Carroll County Sheriff’s department, followed leads throughout Sunday. None of the sightings panned out until about 11:30 a.m., when Smith responded to a 911 call stating that three men had been beaten and tied in a home on State Hwy. 36, near Sanders – about a mile away from where the pickup truck was abandoned the day before.
Brothers beaten, threatened
Earlier Monday morning, Barry Marshall went to tell his brothers, Richard and Keith, that a relative had passed away over the weekend. The two men, in their mid-50s to early 60s, are both bachelors and share a home on the farm in Carroll County.
Barry Marshall, 50, said he was greeted at the door by a stranger, who aimed a rifle at his forehead, then brought him quickly face-down to the floor and hog-tied him by his hands and feet.
Marshall said he and his brother, Keith – who Barry soon discovered had been beaten and also bound, face-down, on the floor – heard at least three different voices, as the strangers ransacked the house in search of money, liquor, pills, food and clothing to change into.
Smith told reporters on the scene early Monday afternoon that Richard Marshall was found bound in the barn behind the house. He was badly beaten and was flown by helicopter to University Hospital for treatment. Keith Marshall was transported by Carroll County EMS to Carroll County Memorial Hospital for treatment of less severe injuries.
Barry Marshall was not injured.
Guns, ammunition and money stolen
On Tuesday, Smith said he believes the three fugitives hid in the woods all day after abandoning the stolen pickup on the interstate, probably around 7 a.m. He said authorities determined through phone records that one of the men had called a girlfriend from the 34 mile marker at Campbellsburg at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
Smith said the men spent Sunday night in the Marshall’s barn, which is visible from the spot where they abandoned the truck.
He said Richard and Keith had removed the keys from all their vehicles the night before, when they heard that the escapees might still be in the area. But sometime in Monday morning, Richard Marshall returned to the barn with the tractor keys, Smith said. The escapees allegedly attacked Richard, then went to the house, where they allegedly attacked Keith.
Smith said the fugitives stole two, possibly three, 9 mm handguns; a 12-gauge Browning shotgun; a .44-caliber Magnum rifle and another high-powered rifle; and several .22-caliber rifles, many of which had been stored in a gun safe and a gun cabinet. They also are believed to have stolen, “a load of ammuntion” and $7,000 in cash, he said.
“They hit the jackpot,” Smith said. “For an escapee, it couldn’t have been a more ideal setup. It’s just a shame that it had to happen here in this county.”
Smith said the brothers cooperated with the men throughout the ordeal, telling them where they could find items they wanted. He said the escaped convicts continually threatened the two men in the house, warning them that they would be killed if they didn’t cooperate.
Before leaving, Smith said they warned the brothers to wait two hours before calling the authorities. They then drove off sometime before 11:30 a.m. in a dark-green1998 Ford Ranger extended-cab, four-wheel-drive pickup truck, Smith said. He said the truck has a damaged front bumper and had a full tank of gas.
“They are armed and got money to travel with,” Smith said. “We know we’ve got some violent people on the loose.”
Smith said it was unknown which direction the fugitives fled.
In an interview Monday afternoon, Barry Marshall said that, though they were instructed not to call anyone for two hours after the fugitives left, he and his brother worked together to free themselves as soon as they knew their attackers were gone. He said he had to drive to a neighbor’s house to call for help because the phone lines to the house were cut.
When asked what was going through his mind, he said he was thinking what anyone in his situation would be thinking throughout the ordeal: “I was hoping I didn’t die right there.”
News-Democrat staff writer Sharon Graves, Henry County Local editor Jonna Spellbring-Priester and Perry County News editor Vince Leuke all contributed to this report.