Georgia prison escape fugitives still at large; may have stolen 2nd vehicle
MORGAN COUNTY, Georgia (CNN) — Two Georgia fugitives accused of killing two corrections officers in an escape from a prisoner-transport bus this week may have stolen a second vehicle, authorities said Wednesday.
Investigators believe inmates Donnie Russell Rowe and Ricky Dubose took a white, 2008 Ford F-250 pickup from a business off Interstate 20 in north-central Georgia’s Morgan County on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, authorities said.
The truck would be at least the second vehicle they’re alleged to have stolen since their escape Tuesday morning from the prison bus in adjacent Putnam County, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said.
“They’re dangerous criminals, and we need the public’s help in locating these vehicles and these individuals,” Sills said.
A multistate manhunt is underway for Rowe, 43, and Dubose, 24, and a reward for their capture has risen to $90,000, the sheriff said.
Rowe and Dubose were on a state corrections bus with 31 other prisoners Tuesday morning when the two somehow got out of what should have been a locked, gated rear section of the bus, police said.
The men entered the driver’s compartment, overpowered and disarmed Officers Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue while the bus was on State Route 16 between Eatonton and Sparta, police said.
At least one of the escapees shot and killed the officers, authorities said. Leaving the other prisoners in the bus, Rowe and Dubose carjacked a green Honda Civic and drove away after forcing the driver out, Sills said.
Both were serving prison sentences for separate armed robbery and assault convictions, and they knew each other, having been cellmates at some point, authorities said.
They most recently were housed at Baldwin State Prison near Milledgeville. But they and the other prisoners were being transported Tuesday to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, some 45 miles west of Eatonton.
It wasn’t immediately clear why the prisoners were being transferred. Investigators will analyze footage from video cameras on the bus to determine how the two got free and who pulled the trigger, the sheriff said.
A house burglary, and the stolen vehicles
Sometime after the escape and carjacking, the men are believed to have ransacked a house perhaps 30 miles from where they left the bus, Sills said.
They took food and may have stolen some clothes, the sheriff said.
Here are the descriptions of the vehicles police are looking for:
• The 2004 green, four-door Honda Civic, with Georgia license plate RBJ6601, was carjacked shortly after the escape Tuesday morning.
• The 2008 white Ford F-250 pickup, with Georgia license plate BCX5372, was stolen between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning from a rural business.
The truck has damage to the right rear quarter panel, a trailer hitch that “in some manner has been cut with a torch,” and tool boxes on each side, Sills said. The truck had been used for work at an unspecified site.
The business did not appear to have been broken into, the sheriff said.
“I’m sure (the keys) were left” in the truck, Sills said. “This is a rock quarry-type place.”
Tracks and footprints led investigators to believe Rowe and Dubose took the truck, Sills said.
Sills said the two men may be in the truck, but he did not rule out they may have split up.
‘I have their blood on my shoes’
The sheriff became emotional Tuesday as he recounted the scene when he got to the bus.
“I saw two brutally murdered corrections officers, that’s what I saw,” Sills said. “I have their blood on my shoes.”
Sills was asked about reports that one of the prisoners was connected to a gang.
“I don’t care if they’re members of the First Presbyterian Church. They murdered two correctional officers,” he said.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the state will use all available resources to track down the fugitives.
“Two families lost everything in a heinous and senseless act of violence perpetrated at the hands of cowards,” Deal said. “Our heartbreak is matched only in our resolve to bring their murderers to justice.”
The sheriff of Oconee County, north of where the killings occurred, posted a message for the escaped convicts on Facebook.
“Donnie and Ricky, I hope you are reading this. What is done is done. However, I am asking you to surrender yourselves to the nearest law enforcement officer as soon as possible. You made your escape, but you won’t be out long. … There is no one you can trust … and nowhere you can go that we won’t find you,” the sheriff wrote.
Protocol for moving prisoners
It is standard protocol to have two officers — armed but not wearing ballistic vests — transport prisoners on a bus, authorities said.
Monica, 42, a sergeant, worked for the department for almost eight years and leaves a wife. Billue, 58, a 10-year employee, is survived by his father, brother and sister, Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Greg Dozier said.
Rowe was serving a sentence of up to life in prison for armed robbery and aggravated assault in a 2001 case, according to the Department of Corrections website.
Dubose was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for armed robbery, aggravated assault and theft in 2014, the website shows. He also was convicted of theft and identity fraud in cases from August 2010.
The other prisoners on the bus were taken to the sheriff’s office and put on another corrections department bus.