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Convicted murderer escapes

January 17, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Police still were searching Saturday night for a convicted murderer who escaped from the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown early Saturday.

The inmate, Kandelario Garcia-Ramos, is a 23-year-old Hispanic man who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 165 pounds and has brown eyes and dark hair, police said. He was believed to have been wearing blue jeans and other unknown prison clothing when he escaped, and he might have cuts from climbing through razor wire, police said.

Garcia-Ramos was serving a 40-year sentence for first-degree murder in connection with a December 2007 stabbing in Prince George's County, Md.

Garcia-Ramos apparently scaled the fence at the institution between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. while his unit was moving to or from the dining hall for breakfast, said Rick Binetti, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

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Garcia-Ramos is not known to be armed, but should be considered dangerous, police said. Authorities are advising motorists to be wary of hitchhikers and are asking anyone who sees Garcia-Ramos to call 911 immediately.

Maryland State Police were notified of the escape by prison officials shortly before 10:30 a.m. and launched an immediate search with patrol troopers, K-9 units and a helicopter, state police spokesman Greg Shipley said.

Binetti said the institution was put on lockdown as soon as the escape was discovered, but police were not notified until after it had been verified.

"If there's evidence of an escape, it takes a couple of hours to verify who that person is and if that person's truly outside the institution," Binetti said.

Verifying an escape before alerting police is standard procedure when there are no eyewitnesses to the escape, he said.

In a statement Saturday night, Patrick Moran, director of AFSCME Maryland, the union that represents state correctional officers, blamed the incident on staffing shortages at the institution.

"This security breach highlights the need for proper staffing ratios in state facilities -- particularly correctional institutions," Moran wrote. "It is vital that state budget concerns do not undercut public safety."

The Maryland State Police State Apprehension Team, which has special expertise in tracking fugitives, responded to the scene and was leading the search efforts, Shipley said.

A few people still were searching the area around MCI-H Saturday night, but most units cleared the scene by about 8:30 p.m., Sgt. T.J. McKenrick said. There had not been any sightings of Garcia-Ramos, he said.

State police alerted all East Coast law enforcement agencies as well as federal authorities and railroad companies, the department said. Maryland State Police and Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies contacted residents throughout the area to notify them of the escape, Shipley said.

MCI-H is a medium-security correctional facility at 18601 Roxbury Road, off of Sharpsburg Pike, south of Hagerstown. Its fence is about 18 feet high and has razor wire looped around the top, Binetti said. Investigators believe Garcia-Ramos used clothing to cover the razor wire, he said.

Garcia-Ramos had been at MCI-H since July 18 and was housed in the Antietam unit, Binetti said. He had no history of serious infractions while at MCI-H and is described as a generally cooperative loner, he said.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services' Division of Correction and Internal Investigative Unit are investigating how the escape occurred, Binetti said.

Garcia-Ramos entered an Alford plea to first-degree murder in June in Prince George's County Circuit Court, according to court records. In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state has enough evidence to convict.

The Prince-George's County Gazette reported Garcia-Ramos was caught on tape stabbing his former boss at Two Brothers Tire City in Brentwood, Md., on Dec. 26, 2007.

Garcia-Ramos, a resident of Langley Park, Md., had been fired from Tire City a few weeks prior to the stabbing, The Gazette reported.

The victim, Fernando Monge, 44, of Silver Spring, Md., was pronounced dead at the scene, and Garcia-Ramos was arrested two days later, The Gazette reported.

According to The Gazette, Garcia-Ramos is not a U.S. citizen and the State's Attorney for Prince George's County said he likely would be deported after serving 40 years.


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