Update: 2 Grainger Co. escapees found | News
Grainger County Sheriff Scott Layel confirms two of the three escapees from the Grainger County jail are now in custody.
Layel says Dennis Rucker and Shane Farrow were found in Pigeon Forge.
The search continues for the third suspect, David Valentine.
County officials held a press conference Wednesday to reassure the public that the Grainger County jail is safe and secure following the escape of three inmates on Friday and lockdown on Tuesday.
Chief Deputy Charles Biddle and District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn addressed the media and said they found some things during Tuesday's search at the jail that provided leads they said will help find the missing inmates. Authorities are still searching for Dennis Rucker, Shane Farrow and David Valentine. They reportedly climbed over the fence around the jail's recreation area on Friday afternoon.
However, Dunn said his office wasn't notified about the missing inmates until Sunday evening.
As part of the investigation, three jail employees have officially been released because of policy and procedure violations. The fired jailers include Michael Sane (Officer in Charge), Codie Wolf, and Bobby Owens. Sane has also been cited for bringing contraband into the jail on Sunday evening.
Biddle and Dunn said they have 15 jailers at this time, with an inmate population of 103.
District Attorney Dunn wouldn't elaborate on accusations that employees were helping Grainger County jail inmates leave at night and return by the morning. He said if that's discovered during the investigation, jailers will face charges.
In light of the past few days, Biddle said Sheriff Layel issued a general order appointing the Chief Deputy to act for the Sheriff in making day-to-day decisions and managing affairs. Biddle told the media this is because Layel wants "stability" in the department and the jail. During Tuesday's raid of the jail, Sheriff Scott Layel was not at the justice center because Biddle said the sheriff was in bad health.
Chief Deputy Biddle also addressed a recent string of burglaries in the county. He said detectives are working diligently and have so far made five arrests. However, they are still working another 20 more cases and want the public to come forward if they have any information. He said the largest burglary so far involved $110,000 worth of stolen copper.
After three inmates escaped the Grainger County jail and weren't missed for at least a couple of days, authorities locked down the jail on Tuesday to make sure it was secure, and are investigating the lapse in security.
4th District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn requested the help of the Blount County Sheriff's Office to lock down and search the jail for contraband and any other items that weren't supposed to be there. Dunn said the purpose of the search was to make sure the facility was safe and secure. Dunn said they'd found restricted items like cell phones, coffee, and tobacco in the cells.
The search was also to ensure that all off the inmates were accounted for, after three inmates apparently escaped on Friday and weren't missed until Sunday evening. Authorities are still searching for Dennis Rucker, Shane Farrow and David Valentine, Chief Deputy Charles Biddle said the men climbed over the fence around the jail's recreation area.
Bruce Thompson, who lives near the jail, says neighbors aren't too concerned about the escaped inmates.
"Not too worried. Everybody, I think , thinks they're out of the country," he said.
Dunn and Biddle both acknowledged there appear to have been serious security lapses at the jail. They are now investigating what happened, and if any employees were involved in the escape or if violations of policy allowed it to happen, they could be disciplined and/or charged.
Chief Biddle said at this point, no charges have been filed against any jail employees. Inmates are supposed to be checked every hour, and obviously in this case, he said, that didn't appear to have happened.
Sheriff Scott Layel was not at the justice center. Chief Biddle said the sheriff was in bad health, but he spoke with Layel on the phone, and he said he was behind the investigation 100% and appreciates the assistance.
The Grainger County Justice Center is on lockdown Tuesday afternoon, and officials so far are not saying why.
Sometime after 2 pm, an employee says non-essential personnel were told to go home for the day, and the building was locked down, with no one allowed to enter or leave the building.
The Blount County Sheriff's Office has set up a mobile command center outside the justice center in Rutledge. There are several Blount County deputies and cruisers there, along with the Blount County SWAT team and DTF (Drug Task Force) agents.
We're told that District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn is inside the Justice Center. He is expected to provide some information about what is going on later this afternoon. Blount County Sheriff James Berrong would not comment on why his department is involved.
This weekend, Grainger County authorities said three inmates escaped from the jail, and are still on the run.
10News has a crew at the Justice Center and will bring you any developments on 10News and WBIR.com.