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2015-07-30

'The Great Escape,' Lakehills 'El Chapo'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Making like "El Chapo," an inmate from the Bandera County Jail slipped away from a work crew last week, spending approximately 13 hours on the lam before his apprehension.
According to a law enforcement report, Dalton Charles Williams, 25, of Center Point, and another prisoner were doing routine work at the Sanitary Solid Waste Disposal and Recycling Stations in Lakehills on Thursday, July 23. Working with some baled recyclables, the jailer in charge left the immediate area for a short time. When the jailer returned, only one prisoner remained. When queried about the absence, the solitary inmate indicated his cohort had gone to the restroom.
When lunchtime came, but Williams didn't, the deputy looked for him - to no avail. Dalton had apparently fled from the site at 151 Ohio Avenue. A subsequent investigation revealed that a hole had been cut in the fence surrounding the Sanitary Solid Waste Disposal.
A preliminary investigation indicated that Williams had slipped through the fence, then discarded his distinctive orange jumpsuit. "We think he either had on a T-shirt and shorts under the jumpsuit or someone had hidden some civilian clothes for him in the vicinity," Sheriff Daniel "Dan" Butts said in an interview on Friday, July 24. According to Butts, it did not appear that the second inmate was involved in Williams' escape.
The sheriff learned about the escape while attending Bandera County Commissioners Court. He immediately requested tracking dogs from Hondo be transported to the scene. "When they were brought to Lakehills, the dogs were unable to track at all. This leads us to believe that someone picked Williams up and the whole thing was pre-arranged," Butts said.
Here, Williams' "Great Escape" becomes more convoluted. According to Butts, authorities believe that his original contacts failed to show up to facilitate his getaway. However, in a kind of "bucket brigade," another driver apparently transported him to a convenience store on FM 1283 where yet another person eventually dropped him off on Elm Pass Road. "Someone else could have taken him to Kerrville," Butts said.
After Williams absconded, investigators combed his records searching for possible contacts. After interviewing family and other known associates, they pieced together a possible scenario. "A lot of their stories didn't make sense, but some of his associates who might have been involved in the escape finally told us where we might find Mr. Williams," Butts said. "At this point, we have about 80 percent of this figured out."
Williams was finally apprehended at 3:30 am in Kerr County near the Guadalupe River behind a Stripes store on Memorial Boulevard across from Kerrville-Schreiner Park. Bandera County Sheriff's Office Investigator Danny Sanchez assisted with the apprehension, which took place without incident.
Williams remains behind bars in the Kerr County Jail where he has outstanding warrants for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Last spring, Williams was incarcerated locally for felony arson that occurred in Bandera County. The incident was reported on Feb. 16, according to Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith, who worked with Kerr County Constable James "Charlie" Hicks to secure the felony warrant for Williams' arrest.
On Feb. 16, Bandera County Emergency Dispatch was informed of a vehicle on fire in the 4500 block of Old School Road, off Lower Mason Creek Road. A subsequent investigation revealed that the 2012 Ford 250 pickup had been stolen in Kerr County and allegedly set on fire by Williams.
Stith later assisted with Williams' capture in Center Point. Subsequently, Williams was convicted of the arson charges.
Butts explained that prisoners selected for work crews must have no violent criminal charges against them and have not been disciplinary problems while in county jail. Ironically, they also must be deemed not to be flight risks. "Mr. Williams' previous charges were all of a property crime nature, mainly thefts," Butts said. "There were no assaults in his background."
According to Jail Administrator Cary Berger, Williams had just been sentenced to six years in the department of Criminal Justice after being convicted of arson. He was awaiting transport at the time he absconded.
"We definitely did not consider him a flight risk," Berger said in an interview, "or he would have never been placed on the work crew." Berger continued, "This incident will add substantially to Mr. Williams' sentence and he will never get a good trusty position or job while he's serving his prison sentence. He's definitely considered a flight risk now."
At this time, the sheriff was unsure whether Williams would be returned to Bandera County. "It will be determined on how DA Scott Monroe plans to proceed," Butts said. "This incident is still under investigation and other charges may be pending against individuals who may have assisted with his escape."
Butts praised his officers' work in the quick recapture of Williams - especially BCSO Investigators Sanchez and Jeff Majewski.