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Prison escapees apprehended

March 24, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Three men who escaped from Franklin County Prison Wednesday night by scaling a fence in the minimum security work-release yard have been captured, authorities said.

They were caught in a motel in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Thursday night after Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg traced a phone call one of them made from there to a relative in Franklin County, police said.

Trooper Mark Grove of the Chambersburg barrack said once it was determined the phone call came from Myrtle Beach, police here notified police there.

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Lt. Chuck Dunn of the Myrtle Beach Police Department said Friday that the three escapees - Eric Plummer, 21, Robert Thomas Jr., 21, and Ralph Hepfer Jr., 24, all of Chambersburg - were apprehended in a motel room around midnight Thursday without incident.

They were arraigned before a clerk of the court and ordered jailed without bond.

"We didn't want them to get out again," Dunn said.

All three waived extradition, court officials said. They are being held in the J. Rubin Long Detention Center in Horry County, S.C.

Police believe the trio drove to South Carolina in a 1994 Dodge pickup that had been reported stolen in Chambersburg. A vehicle fitting that description was found at the motel where the three men were apprehended, Dunn said.

State Police in Chambersburg said they are still investigating the theft of the truck.

None of the three was in prison in Franklin County for serious crimes. All were on work-release programs. Inmates in the program work in the community daily.

Prison officials said they were baffled as to why the three decided to leave.

Plummer had had a job interview Wednesday morning and Hepfner only had 30 days remaining on his sentence.

Prison officials said they believe the three men scaled a fence in the work- release yard by moving a picnic table next to it. There is no razor wire on the fence there.

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