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MCTC inmate escapes

April 23, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

MOUNT AETNA - An inmate who was less than seven months from completing his sentence escaped from a prison work detail Tuesday morning, Maryland State Police said.

Edwin Phillip Hobbs, 35, a prisoner at the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown, was serving sentences for auto theft and assault.

Part of a five-man crew working along state roads, Hobbs bolted at about 11:10 a.m. when the group took a break at the Md. 66 park-and-ride area just north of Interstate 70, police said.

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Trooper 1st Class Wayne Smith said Hobbs ran toward the east and escaped through a wooded area. He said the MCTC correctional officer immediately saw Hobbs but could not leave the rest of the inmates. Instead, he radioed for help.

Smith said the terrain aided Hobbs' escape.

"It was very thick underbrush," he said.

Hobbs is described as 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 225 pounds. He has blue eyes, a partial moustache and shoulder-length, light brown hair, which is balding in the front. He was last seen wearing a long-sleeve shirt with flowers on it, blue jeans and a light blue jacket, police said.

About eight troopers, two bloodhounds and a Maryland State Police helicopter searched the area but could not find Hobbs, Smith said. The helicopter landed on I-70 to drop off a bloodhound and then circled the area for about a half hour, Smith said.

Smith said troopers formed a perimeter and patrolled I-70, Mount Aetna Road and other nearby roads. In addition, he said troopers searched a quarry just north of the park-and-ride. He said officials contacted other police agencies and believe Hobbs is still in the area.

Hobbs is believed to be the first MCTC prisoner to escape from a supervised work crew, said prison spokeswoman Sharon Rucker. Ironically, he would have been released from prison on Nov. 13. Now, if caught, he faces up to 10 years in prison, she said.

Rucker said Hobbs had served most of a two-year sentence for auto theft and had a four-month sentence to serve on an assault conviction.

While some inmates on work-release programs have failed to report back to prison, Rucker said she could not recall another instance of a prisoner escaping from a supervised road crew.

Only inmates who exhibit good behavior in prison and have a relatively clean record are eligible for the program, Rucker said. Once they make it that far, she said few risk jeopardizing their release.

"They have a little bit more responsibility and they've earned more privileges," she said. "They're very careful not to do anything that could cause them to stay longer. They have too much to lose."

Prison work crews routinely perform maintenance work on state roads, police said. Hobbs was part of a crew that cut grass, pulled weeds and removed trash, Smith said.

Rucker said service on a work crew, which is voluntary, can curry favor with the parole board. Learning skills and completing education can also win points, she said.

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