Thursday, September 9, 2010
Fugitive’s run lasts 19 hours
By SUE WATSON
Authorities caught up with Latrell Wilson, 20, who escaped from the Marshall County Courtroom Tuesday of last week, in less than 24 hours, according to sheriff Kenny Dickerson.
Wilson will not be staying in the county jail long. Dickerson said he is being sent to Rankin County where the Mississippi Department of Corrections will take over the man’s custody.
Wilson fled the courtroom August 31 shortly after 4 p.m. when he was allowed to go to the bathroom. He was not restrained because court rules and policies do not allow a defendant who is free on bond to be restrained in the presence of the jury.
The saga began with Wilson due in court Tuesday of last week for a jury trial, facing charges of participating in a burglary in the Wall Hill community in 2009, Dickerson said. Wilson was late for his court appointment because he attempted overdosing with Tylenol the day before his court date, according to the sheriff. Authorities learned the whereabouts of Wilson and brought him to court wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and shoes he had been given at the medical facility.
Late in the day after the jury was seated, Wilson decided to change his plea to guilty. Judge Robert Elliott sentenced him to 15 years, six years suspended and nine years to be served. Elliott and circuit court clerk Lucy Carpenter then went into the judge’s chambers where the sentencing orders were being made ready to sign, Carpenter said.
“We had started the jury trial, the jury had been selected, the judge had sent the jury home for the day and Mr. Wilson had pled guilty,” she said. “Judge Elliott had ordered him transported immediately. Everyone left the room except sheriff’s deputies and the defendant.
“The next thing, we heard a commotion and he had jumped the rail and run down the center aisle with deputies in pursuit.”
Carpenter imagined Wilson taking leave “like a gazelle.”
Election commissioners Marie Palmer and Betty Whaley were inside the election commissioners’ room when Wilson bolted through the courtroom back door and scaled down the stairway.
“I didn’t see it,” Carpenter said. “I was in chambers with the judge discussing what we were going to do tomorrow and getting his order signed to immediately transport when I heard the thud when he jumped. It had taken all day to seat a jury for his trial. He was a no-show earlier in the morning, had overdosed on Tylenol, was taken to the hospital and then released. Wilson was on bond when he made his appearance in court, not in the custody of the sheriff’s office.”
Carpenter said Wilson was charged with burglary and a co-defendant had already been sentenced and was going to testify against Wilson.
Palmer said Wilson flew down the stairs so fast, she didn’t think his feet hit the stairs but a time or two.
Sheriff’s deputies and Holly Springs police officers pursued Wilson, who fled to the area near Elder Avenue in the Chulahoma Avenue area west of Craft Street, where he allegedly entered a house and tried unsuccessfully to take a lady hostage. He subsequently fled out the back door of her house and continued evading authorities, who had called out the police dogs for a manhunt. The DeSoto County helicopter began surveilling the perimeter around 5 p.m. and a SWAT team was assembled. Officers fanned out trying to set up a search perimeter.
Wilson was believed to have escaped to the Cedar Hill area, perhaps to have entered a dry creek bed, then fled and crossed Highway 78 near the Marianna/Peyton road area.
By nightfall, authorities were still searching the area near Marianna and Wall Hill roads where Wilson’s grandmother was said to live and where he was believed to have stayed at times, Dickerson said.
Wilson was arrested in DeSoto County on Highway 305 outside Lewisburg and heading into Olive Branch around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, Dickerson said. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by an acquaintance and had been lying down in the backseat but not under cover, the sheriff said.
Wilson was taken into custody without incident and had nothing to say, Dickerson said.
“He was extremely quiet,” the sheriff said.
Wilson, whose address in his court file was listed in the 700 block of Wall Hill Road, Byhalia, was searched and being processed by noon Wednesday at the county jail.
Dickerson said Judge Elliott had rescinded Wilson’s sentence of 15 years and ordered Wilson to serve the full 25 years allowed by law for burglary. Wilson will also be charged with felony escape and with burglary, the sheriff said.
Dickerson said Wilson had help from some friends after he escaped the courtroom.
“He was well acquainted with all the area,” he said. “We know he made it to Marianna last night, then on toward Wall Hill Road where he had stayed some with his grandmother. He had inside information and help and we also had inside information and help to counter it.”
Wilson was believed to have spent part of the night at his grandmother’s house on Wall Hill Road before leaving in a vehicle Wednesday morning of last week in an effort to go to an apartment in Olive Branch.
The individuals who assisted Wilson in his flight may be charged, Dickerson said.
Dickerson said the victim in the Wall Hill burglary in which Wilson’s codefendants struck a retired police officer and burglarized her home lived not far away from Wilson’s grandmother’s house.
Sheriff Dickerson said he appreciates sheriff’s department officers, who along with himself, worked tirelessly in the apprehension of Wilson. He also thanked officers with the Holly Springs Police Department, the Byhalia Police Department, the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department, the Olive Branch Police Department, the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the U.S. Marshal’s Office for the excellent teamwork “which always proves to be effective in the apprehension of criminals.”
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