TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A convicted murderer and another inmate remained at large Thursday after escaping from a Kansas jail where they'd been transferred from an overcrowded state prison. Two others were apprehended, one after he turned himself in at a Walmart in Nebraska.
Authorities acknowledged they were not sure where Santos Carrera-Morales and Eric James, both 22, might be headed after their escape early Wednesday from Ottawa County Jail in Minneapolis, a small town about 120 miles west of Topeka.
Carrera-Morales was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with two killings in 2007.
"We really do have a number of tips and leads," said Jeremy Barclay, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections. "We have no shortage."
The two should be considered armed and dangerous, police said, warning that they could be in or near to North Platte, Neb., after another inmate turned up there.
Drew Wade, 21, had traveled in a stolen minivan to the western Nebraska town and was alone when he gave himself up about 13 hours after the jail break, police said. Wade told North Platte police that he had phoned his father, and that his father persuaded him to turn himself in.
"He walked into the local Walmart," said police Sgt. Gary Hovey. "He approached the manager and asked him to call the police."
The escaped inmates stole at least two vehicles near the county jail, Highway Patrol spokesman Ben Gardner said. But the two remaining escapees might not be traveling together.
Hovey said Wade told North Platte police: "They all went in separate directions after they got out."
The inmates, armed with homemade knives, overpowered guards at the Kansas jail after complaining about a broken water line in the holding cell area, Ottawa County Sheriff Keith Coleman told The Salina Journal. Coleman, who didn't respond to a phone call by The Associated Press on Thursday, said the inmates were able to open the cell doors and make their way outside. The guards suffered only minor injuries.
The four men were among 22 inmates who had been transferred in January from the Ellsworth Correctional Facility to help alleviate overcrowding — a prickly issue in Kansas.
Carrera-Morales was 17 when he and two other people were convicted of first-degree murder for the deaths of a teenager and a young man in Sedgwick County in March 2007. Police in Wichita, where Carrera-Morales has ties, said all were gang members.
James was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping and criminal damage in February 2008, while Wade was convicted of robbery and aggravated battery, according to online prison records. Records also show the three had numerous disciplinary issues while behind bars.
Barclay said Wade, James and Carrera-Morales had medium-security status, based on individual evaluations when they entered the prison system.
Overcrowding in Kansas' prisons has been exacerbated in recent years by closures and budget cuts. Inmate counts earlier this year showed men's prisons are housing 8,635 inmates, 266 over capacity.
As of Friday, 87 inmates were being housed in five county jails, including Ottawa County's, under contracts paying them an average of $40 a day per inmate, Barclay said.
The five jails passed inspections that included a review of their staff training before they were allowed to house prison inmates, although Barclay said the department was considering more training for staff.
The Department of Corrections also wants to purchase a boys' home at the Ellsworth prison to provide 95 additional beds.
"We'd better get that done because, apparently, farming them out doesn't work," said Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, a Republican whose district includes the prison.
Associated Press reporters John Milburn in Topeka, Kan., and Bill Draper in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.