Unbolted dryer led to prisoner escape

The two inmates who escaped from the Webster County Jail on Aug. 21 escaped by moving an unsecured dryer while they were doing laundry.

Since the escape, the dryer has been bolted to the floor.

The area Jason Patrick Sullivan, 43, and George H. Johnson, 32, escaped from was remodeled during an extensive renovation of the Webster County Law Enforcement Center between 2010 and 2012, according to Webster County Sheriff Jim Stubbs.

The renovation cost about $6.6 million.

During the renovations, the dryer was not secured to the floor.

“Why it wasn’t secured, I don’t know,” Stubbs said Wednesday. “I would have thought that dryer should have been secured.”

Stubbs became the Webster County sheriff in 2013, after the renovations were finished.

Sullivan and Johnson gained access to a locked room behind the dryer and climbed out of the jail through a vent on the east side of the building.

Both Sullivan and Johnson have since been apprehended.

Stubbs said law enforcement has revisited some procedures and policies since the pair escaped.

Sullivan and Johnson were what are called “trusties.”

As trusties, they were allowed to do laundry and prepare food.

Before the escape, trusties used to stay in a cell on the east side of the jail, the side from which Johnson and Sullivan escaped.

Now the inmates who help must stay in cells in the general population, on the west side of the jail.

“Assistance is more limited and more controlled,” Stubbs said.

Trusties who help with laundry and cooking are now searched each morning before they help.

They are searched again when they return to general population.

“Obviously we try to revisit everything and take a look at things you normally wouldn’t think about,” Stubbs said. “It’s standard procedure to try to revisit them.”

A routine jail inspection completed last month resulted in “an excellent evaluation and a glowing report,” Stubbs previously told The Messenger.

Sullivan is now facing a two additional Class D felonies: escape from custody and second-degree criminal mischief.

Before the escape, he was being held on felony charges of domestic abuse and false imprisonment, along with misdemeanor charges.

Sullivan’s preliminary hearing on the new charges is set for Friday.

Johnson will be facing the same charges as Sullivan, according to Stubbs.

Previously, Johnson was being held on charges of first-degree theft, second-degree criminal mischief, third-degree burglary and parole violation.

Johnson sustained injuries during the escape and was taken into custody when he sought emergency treatment at Trinity Regional Medical Center.

Sullivan was arrested Saturday with Sarah Nicholle Ritter, 37, of 1713 1/2 Second Ave. S., who is facing a felony charge of aiding and abetting escape from custody and several aggravated misdemeanor charges for her alleged role in helping with the escape.