Storm aids in capture of Pa. fugitive

September 08, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Police in Lake Helen, Fla., with the unintended assistance of Hurricane Frances, on Tuesday morning captured a Franklin County Prison inmate who escaped last month, and in the process recovered the county-owned van he allegedly stole.

Jeffrey Donald Corle, 36, was captured by the Lake Helen Police Department in Volusia County, Fla., shortly after an all-night search through a swamp was called off, Pennsylvania State Police said.

At 11:15 p.m. Monday, police stopped a vehicle for driving after the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by authorities in the wake of Hurricane Frances, Lake Helen police said. The vehicle Corle was driving was the van belonging to Franklin County In-Home Services, said Trooper Ed Asbury of the Pennsylvania State Police.


When police asked Corle to step out of the van he sped off, nearly hitting Cpl. Scott Bellesfield, Lake Helen police alleged. He drove down a dirt road that led to a swamp, then fled on foot, police said.

Police, including the Volusia County Sheriff's Office and officers from Florida Fish and Wildlife, began a nighttime search of the swamp, Lake Helen police said. Corle evaded police and the search was called off Tuesday morning, Lake Helen police said.

Shortly after the search was called off, however, Corle was spotted walking along Prevatt Avenue by Florida Fish and Wildlife K-9 Officers Jeff Gier and John Giles and was taken into custody, police said.

"Talk about star-crossed," Warden John Wetzel said after hearing the news. "The guy is 1,000 miles away and gets caught in a hurricane."

Corle, who also uses the last name Cole, escaped from Franklin County Prison on Aug. 22 between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. by prying open a padlocked gate in the prison's A block, Wetzel said. The gate also had a door lock, but it was not working, he said.

Corle then scaled a 10-foot-high fence topped by razor wire, using a plastic pillow cover to protect himself from being cut, Wetzel said.

Corle had been in Franklin County Prison since his June 18 arrest by Waynesboro, Pa., police. He was charged with receiving stolen property, attempted theft and criminal mischief, according to court documents.

In that incident, Corle was seen trying to break into a soda machine, according to the affidavit of probable cause. When police arrived he was in a van with broken window and a hot-wired ignition, the affidavit alleges.

A check of the van's license plate showed it was reported stolen in Montgomery County, Md.

Waynesboro police later charged Corle with giving them false identification, according to another affidavit.

Cole is known to have ties in Maryland, according to state police. Waynesboro police listed him as being from Frederick, Md., and Adamstown, Md., in the criminal complaints.

In addition to charges in Franklin County, Corle was being held on two detainers from Maryland, one for a state parole violation on a grand larceny conviction. The second one was issued by the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County.

According to that detainer, Corle was wanted for assault in the first degree, two counts of attempting to elude a police officer, failure to stop after an accident, failure to return to and remain at the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident.

Wetzel said he does not expect to see Corle back in Franklin County Prison any time soon due to new charges against him in Florida.

"I'm sure it will take quite some time for him to matriculate back up here," Wetzel said.

Authorities in Florida have charged Corle with felony assault on a police officer, felony fleeing and eluding police, failure to stop after an accident, failure to remain at the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident.

Lake Helen police said Corle had a bag of Cheerios and a bottle of water on him when he was arrested.

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