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Public a key in capture of escapee

July 30, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Sara Repp recalls her encounter with MCI inmate Dominic Webster who escaped earlier Friday morning and was hanging around her Hagerstown backyard at 9:45 am Friday.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer,

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Aided by tips from the public, police Friday afternoon tracked escaped Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown inmate Dominic Webster to a wooded area near Beaver Creek Country Club and captured him without incident about six hours after he was discovered missing from MCI-H.

The public served as the "eyes and ears" of the law enforcement agencies that took part in the search, said Capt. James R. Pyles, Western Troop commander for Maryland State Police. That included a motorist who provided the final piece of information, he said.

The motorist saw Webster along the roadway and, concerned about the man's welfare, asked him if he was all right, Pyles said. The motorist took Webster to Sheetz at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Md. 66, but a short time later learned of the escape, he said.

"This concerned citizen put the pieces together" and called 911, Pyles said. Police set up a command post at Sheetz and within about half an hour, Webster was in custody, he said.

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Webster, 51, began serving a 25-year sentence for multiple counts of robbery with a deadly weapon and handgun offenses in 2008, according to Danielle Lueking, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Lueking's press release stated Webster was noticed missing shortly before 11 a.m.

Officials still were investigating how Webster escaped from the prison on Roxbury Road, Erin Julius, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Division of Correction, said Friday night.

One of the people to encounter Webster during his five-mile flight from prison might have been Kevin Collins, who was sitting at his computer in his home on Old National Pike when he saw someone out by his barn. Collins said he thought it was a person coming to paint the building, but he then saw the man walk behind his garage,

Collins went outside with a 9-mm pistol tucked into his waistband and saw the man peering through a rear window of the garage.

"I asked him if he wanted to get shot and he said, 'No sir,'" Collins said.

The man, wearing a blue sweat shirt and gray sweat pants, then walked away toward Antietam Creek, Collins said. The man also appeared to be carrying a bundle over his shoulder, he said.

Collins did not immediately call police, but did so after hearing police helicopters overhead, he said. Two police dog teams had tracked the man's scent through a field to the creek, he said.

Collins said his encounter with the man occurred about 10:15 a.m. About half an hour earlier, Sara Repp said she saw a man outside her house at the end of a cul-de-sac on Thomas Drive.

"I came down to my kitchen this morning and realized there was a man outside my window," Repp said. The man was bent over near an air-conditioning unit and she thought he "might have been a worker of some sort," she said.

"He did see me ... he stumbled around a bit. I didn't know if he was drunk or disoriented," Repp said. The man hid under a pine tree at the edge of her property for about a minute and then walked away, she said.

The man was carrying what appeared to be a white plastic bottle and might have been trying to fill it at the outdoor faucet of the house, Repp said.

State police, joined by units from Boonsboro and the Natural Resources Police gathered in the cul-de-sac Friday afternoon and a state police helicopter landed in a field beyond a tree line behind Repp's house. Members of the Special Response Team armed with semiautomatic rifles put body armor over olive drab uniforms, then left for another location.

Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies, Hancock police and Division of Correction officers also could be seen patrolling roads in the area and posted at bridges and intersections.

About 3:30 p.m. a report came in that a man fitting Webster's description had been at Sheetz and police gathered in the parking lot, with some later moving to the less crowded church parking lot across the road.

Shortly after 4 p.m. police headed up Md. 66 with their emergency lights on. Within a few minutes, Webster, wearing glasses and dressed in a soiled white T-shirt and gray pants, emerged from the brush line along the road, in shackles with a trooper on each arm.

More than two dozen police had converged on the scene by the time Webster was caught.

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