Prisoners apprehended, sheriff says jail is back to normal operations

Wanda English Burnett

Escaped prisoners from the Ripley County Jail are back in custody and the jail is back to normal operations, according to Sheriff Tom Grills.

Sunday morning, September 4, Stanley Short and Robert Huskey both inmates at the jail, were able to escape through the fencing in the recreation area.

Huskey was brought into custody after he was found at the Marathon in Versailles trying to make a phone call. Sheriff’s deputies were able to take him into custody without incident after they received a tip from a citizen.

Jeff Courter of near Versailles, ran out of cigarettes about midnight on Sunday, and decided to go to the Marathon to pick some up. That decision led to him finding the photo of the wanted escapees on the counter at the Marathon. After he saw them, registered their pictures in his brain, he went outside and guess who was standing at the pay phone? Robert Huskey.

“I looked past him, but thought he was acting suspicious,” Courter told The Versailles Republican in an exclusive interview. He said Huskey just didn’t act right. “He gave me a feeling...then I saw his orange sandals.”

Courter called dispatch immediately where the girl asked if he could hold. He told her his call was kind of important and so she took the information.

Within minutes officers arrived and Huskey was taken back to jail without any problems.

“I don’t know if I would have recognized him if I hadn’t just seen his picture,” Courter noted. He said the dead giveaway was the orange sandals!

Not feeling much like a hero, Courter told The Versailles Republican he was just doing what anybody would have. He did wonder why the sheriff’s office doesn’t have enough manpower and thought perhaps with all the expense of looking for the escaped prisoners that maybe some of that extra money that was needed for an all out manhunt could have been put toward additional jail staff. “It’s just something to think about,” he said, adding, “I think the county could come up with the money from somewhere (for additional jail staff and/or deputies).”

Sheriff Tom Grills brought the other escaped inmate to justice about 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday. He was captured at the home of a family member of Short’s near Sunman.

The sheriff told The Versailles Republican he felt that he (Short) would eventually contact his family for assistance. So the sheriff went to a residence on State Road 48 where he located Short sleeping in a grass hopper (bagger) just a couple hundred feet south of the house near the garden in some tall weeds.
The sheriff said when he arrived he found some definite things out of place. He knew there was something amiss and began to search more thoroughly. Short at first lied to him, saying he was someone else. Eventually, he knew he had been caught and the sheriff was able to take him in single-handedly.

The sheriff says the operations of the jail are back to normal and he is working with the commissioners and the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) to fix the fencing that was damaged and make the recreation area more secure. “They won’t get out of there again,” he noted. He said the IDOC has issued the jail excellent annual inspections since 2008.

“The recreation yard was installed in 2003 and inspected to meet requirements. It was revisited by administration at the time the canopy was installed to cover the communications center entrance. At that time administration felt it was adequate, but we now know it was not,” the sheriff said.

He went on to say, “The problem has been addressed and we do not anticipate any future issues. The jail staff responded appropriately and followed proper procedure and protocol in this incident to keep from having any further incidents in the jail. The staff should be commended on their effort. The response and operation to locate the escapees and bring them back into custody went as good as could be expected under the circumstances. I am proud of my team.”

As to a previous story in the Osgood Journal where the prosecutor asked why Huskey had not been taken to another facility already, the sheriff responded. He said that it takes several days for paperwork to get from the court system to the IDOC and back to him. He simply holds the prisoners at the jail until the IDOC is ready for them. Huskey was sentenced on September 1 the Thursday before the incident of escape on Sunday, September 4.

Sheriff Grills also explained that there are several IDOC prisoners in the Ripley County Jail at any given time. “We’re a IDOC holder,” he stated, meaning that the Ripley County Jail houses inmates from the Indiana Department of Corrections. That’s how they generate revenue and can hold up to 40 inmates.

The sheriff said his office is overwhelmed. He noted that he has repeatedly asked county officials for additional staff, but has been denied. “I’ve spent all the money I had,” the sheriff said, referring to mostly commissary monies he has used for a variety of needed things due to the county not having the money for them.

He said he doesn’t understand how the commissioners have managed to save $8M for a new courthouse annex, but don’t have the money for public safety. “It’s a matter of keeping the community safe,” he concluded.