Four inmates arrested after Georgia prison break and 33-day manhunt

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In the middle of the night on October 16, four inmates at the county jail in Macon, Georgia, jumped from the second floor, fell to the ground, ran across the yard and crawled through a hole in a chain-link fence covered in razor wire.

Their escape sparked a 33-day manhunt involving the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, the prospect of a $73,000 reward and law enforcement that led to an Atlanta apartment door after the Grubhub had revealed his whereabouts on the orders of a refugee. But it started on the morning of Oct. 16 when sheriff’s deputies discovered the four inmates had broken out of the jail and were on the run.

“As soon as we found out about the escape, everything went into motion, and then the team assembled here jumped into action,” Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said at a news conference Monday, providing the most comprehensive timeline of the investigation to date. Over the weekend, officers arrested the fourth fugitive, ending the saga.

While reviewing prison surveillance footage, investigators noticed that a blue Dodge Challenger was parked in front of the prison fence around 10:20 p.m. on October 15, the night before the escape. A man they later identified as 24-year-old Jakaylen Williams allegedly got out of the car and broke through two fences to gain access to a yard at the prison. He then dropped a backpack in front of a window, returned to the car and drove off, FBI agent Amanda Risner wrote in an affidavit.

Five hours later, around 3:20 a.m., Williams allegedly returned. A few minutes later, two inmates squeezed through a damaged window, jumped from the second floor of the jail, ran across the yard, climbed through the hole that Williams had allegedly cut and turned off, according to surveillance footage. Within a minute, two other inmates followed suit.

“A blue Dodge Challenger stopped on scene and assisted the occupants in escaping,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release at the time.

The sheriff said other than working together in planning and executing the escape, the four inmates didn’t have much of a connection. After their release, they went their separate ways, he added.

Two days after the escape, the sheriff’s office, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and Macon Regional Crimestoppers offered rewards totaling $73,000 for information leading to the arrest of the inmates.

On October 20, law enforcement made what Davis would later call “the biggest breakthrough” in the case. Investigators found the blue Dodge Challenger they believe was used in the escape, and with it Williams. They arrested him and charged him with several crimes, including four counts of aiding or allowing another to escape lawful custody or detention.

On Oct. 26, they captured their first escapee, 29-year-old Chavis Stokes, at a home in Montezuma, about 40 miles southwest of the prison.

On November 3rd, they located another: 25-year-old Marc Anderson. Days earlier, they discovered Anderson was receiving help from a woman and gained access to her phone records. When they learned that their food had been delivered to a high-rise apartment in Atlanta, they found a photo taken by a Grubhub delivery driver as proof that the food had been delivered – and the photo had an apartment number on it.

Police went to the building and then to the unit. Unaware that investigators had access to the woman’s phone records, he sent her a text message.

“Police at the door baby,” he allegedly wrote. “I’m going back to prison.”

Law enforcement continued the investigation and arrested two women they accused of helping 37-year-old Johnifer Barnwell evade capture. Although the women swapped cars during their visit to Barnwell, investigators used license plate cameras to track the license plates, Davis said, and on Nov. 12 they found and arrested Barnwell at a home in Augusta, the Macon Telegraph reported.

Left behind was 52-year-old Joey Fournier, the only fugitive still on the run. After breaking out of prison with the other inmates and then striking out on his own, Fournier became “a little unhinged,” Davis said Monday. He settled in a homeless camp near Stockbridge, about 60 miles northwest of the prison, and stayed there “almost all the time.”

Meanwhile, investigators worked with his family to find out where he was. On Friday, investigators entered the homeless camp and confiscated some of Fournier’s possessions, but were unable to find him. A day later, Fournier surrendered.

“He probably thought it wouldn’t be long before we got him,” Davis said.

An attorney representing Anderson declined to comment on his arrest. Lawyers for the other escaped inmates and Williams did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post on Tuesday evening.

Jail records show three of the escapees are being held in Bibb County. Davis said Barnwell is in federal custody.