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Inmate escape still being investigated

Residents urged to sign up for notification system

August 02, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • An inmate who escaped from Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown on July 30 was recaptured that afternoon.
Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

Maryland state prison officials on Monday were trying to determine how an inmate with a violent history escaped Friday from the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown, a prison spokesman said.

Mark Vernarelli, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said officials were still in the process of investigating the incident.

"The exact timeline, circumstances and movement of the inmate are key parts of the investigation, which remains at a critical (and early) stage," Vernarelli said in an e-mail. "There is at this time no evidence of an over-the-fence escape and no evidence that any employee or inmate willingly assisted in the escape. Again, however, the investigation is still ongoing."

Inmate Dominic Webster, 51, was noticed missing from the prison shortly before 11 a.m. Friday and wasn't captured until six hours later near Beaver Creek Country Club. He began serving a 25-year sentence in 2008 for multiple counts of robbery with a deadly weapon and handgun offenses.

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After his capture, Webster was transferred to the North Branch Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison near Cumberland, Md., Division of Correction spokeswoman Erin Julius said.

Webster's escape marked the second from a medium- or higher-security system since 2003, Vernarelli said. The other occurred Jan. 17, 2009, when convicted murderer Kandelario Garcia-Ramos escaped from MCI-H after scaling two fences. He was captured five days later.

Not all of the residents who live near the prison were notified Friday that Webster escaped from the medium-security facility.

Melinda May, of Lappans Road, said she would have been more vigilant and locked her doors if she knew Webster was on the loose.

May said she wished her telephone number was on a Division of Correction call list that officials use to notify residents when a prisoner escapes.

"If there's something I need to do, I'll be glad to," she said. "I was shocked when I read it in the newspaper and heard someone got out."

Kevin Damewood of Barnes Road said the notification system has improved since Garcia-Ramos escaped nearly 20 months ago. Damewood said he wasn't notified after that escape, but he received an e-mail and two telephone calls Friday.

He said he spoke to Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, shortly after Garcia-Ramos' escape to discuss the poor communication between the prison system and residents.

"I did a lot of complaining," Damewood said.

Shank said the General Assembly put pressure on the Division of Correction to improve the notification system. As a result, prison officials set up a method to notify people by telephone. The problem, Shank said, was that a lot of people didn't register because they had no idea it existed.

"We need to tighten things up a bit and make people know it's available," Shank said.

Nearly 500 people were notified about Friday's escape, Vernarelli said.




Notification system enrollment



Go to http://www.dpscs.state.md.us/onlineservs/enr to enroll in the Maryland Division of Correction's notification system.

The Division of Correction is in the process of setting up a toll-free telephone number for people who don't have computer access.

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