Escaped US inmates who killed prison guards captured

Two escaped inmates, Ricky Dubose (left) and Donnie Rowe (right) after their escape earlier this week from Putnam County.
Two escaped inmates, Ricky Dubose (left) and Donnie Rowe (right) after their escape earlier this week from Putnam County. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES, AFP) - Two inmates who escaped from a prison bus in Georgia on Tuesday (June 13) after fatally shooting a pair of guards were captured after a car chase in Tennessee, the governor of Georgia said late Thursday.  

The two convicted armed robbers, Donnie R. Rowe and Ricky Dubose, had been on the run since about 6:45am Tuesday, when their escape prompted a nationwide manhunt that drew a reward of US$130,000.

The authorities described them as "dangerous beyond description".

The pair were being moved early Tuesday morning as part of a routine transfer when they escaped the caged back area of the prison bus, overpowered and disarmed the two corrections officers driving, and then fatally shot the officers, the authorities said.

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The men immediately carjacked a 2004 Honda Civic after their escape from the bus, then burglarised a home and eventually stole a white Ford truck, the authorities said.  

Governor Nathan Deal announced that the men were in custody in a message on Twitter around 8pm Thursday.

Rowe, aged 43 and considered a sociopath by authorities, is a recidivist with a long list of convictions who was serving a life sentence for armed robbery and other crimes.

Officials said Dubose, 24, is also a hardened criminal despite his relative youth, and a member of the notorious "Ghostface Gangsters" white supremacist group.

The escapees were part of a group of 30 inmates being transported by bus by two armed guards. The rear of the vehicle was equipped with a caged area where inmates were secured, with the guards in a separate compartment at the front.

Somehow, the pair managed to free themselves and force their way into the front of the vehicle, overpowering the guards and killing them with their own firearms.

The guards were named as Christopher Monica, a strapping 42-year-old, and Curtis Billue, 58, an experienced and highly-regarded prison worker.

The vehicle's security camera footage is being reviewed to piece together how the prisoners managed to wrest away the guards' weapons - and to determine which of the inmates pulled the trigger.

US$130,000 reward

Since their daring escape, and after abandoning the other prisoners in the bus, Rowe and Dubose vanished, and officials say they have few leads as to their whereabouts.

Authorities urged the public to be vigilant, and warned against approaching them.

"The public is in grave danger. These are dangerous, seriously dangerous vicious hoodlums that need to be apprehended," said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who is coordinating the search.

The fugitives are armed with nine-millimeter pistols that were taken from the correctional officers.

"They are dangerous beyond description," Sills added.

Dubose, who was serving a 20-year prison sentence at the time of his escape, likely will not have an easy time hiding in a crowd: His neck is covered with hard-to-miss tattoos, with more ink drawings, in the shape of a crown, engraved over his eyebrows.

The pair shared a cell while in prison, but authorities say they can't be certain if that is where they hatched their escape plan.

David LeValley, FBI special agent in charge of the Atlanta office, said the manhunt had been expanded.

"It has become a nationwide search for these two individuals," he said.

"We need the eyes and ears of everybody, really, in this country to be on the lookout for these two individuals."

As a security precaution, inmates typically are kept in the dark about plans to transport them.

After their bloody jailbreak, the two convicts were spotted in the town of Madison where they broke into a house and helped themselves to clothes that would make them less noticeable.

They had hijacked a Honda Civic, which was discovered hidden in a wooded area on Wednesday, and are believed to have stolen a white Ford pickup truck.

As the hours tick away, officials say the likelihood increases that the escapees have left Georgia, and enlisted the help of federal law enforcement to help recapture them.

The reward for information leading to their capture has been gradually increased from US$60,000 and now is at US$130,000.