Three escape from Pa. prison

March 21, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Three Franklin County Prison inmates in the pre-release program escaped from the annex Wednesday night.

Eric Plummer, 21, Robert Thomas Jr., 21, and Ralph Hepfer Jr., 24, all of Chambersburg, were discovered missing at 9:40 p.m. by corrections officers, Warden John Wetzel said.

It appeared the three took a picnic table and moved it close to the fence in the work-release yard, climbed over and took off, he said.

Wetzel said inmates in the pre-release program are housed in an annex to the main prison and have access to the work-release yard, which is not secured, from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Inmates in the program work in the community on a daily basis.


"This baffles me. Plummer was at a job interview that morning, and Hepfer had 30 days to go on his sentence," Wetzel said. "I really have a hard time understanding or explaining it, other than they are young kids making an impulsive decision."

  • Plummer was serving four to 18 months for violating his parole on a charge of theft by deception. He was eligible for release between now and March 24, 2004, according to Wetzel.

  • Thomas was serving three months for violating his parole on charges of driving while intoxicated, simple assault, fleeing and conspiracy. He had a target release date of July 17, Wetzel said.

  • Hepfer was serving three to 23 months on one count of institutional vandalism of an educational facility, with a minimum release date of April 20, according to Wetzel.

The three men were present at an 8 p.m. head count Wednesday and discovered missing about 90 minutes later, according to prison officials. They were wearing civilian clothing.

The last time an inmate left the work-release facility was last summer when John Paul Lutzow, 19, climbed a fence. He was recaptured at his home a short time later.

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