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Police continue search for escapee in Berkeley County

September 16, 2010|By DON AINES

FALLING WATERS, W.Va. --Police continued Thursday to search an area of Berkeley County, W.Va., for a man charged with a 2005 carjacking in New Jersey who escaped shoeless from a prisoner transport service van around 3 a.m. Wednesday near Exit 20 of Interstate 81.

There had been reports of several possible sightings of Albert Voute, but none of them turned out to be valid, according to West Virginia State Police Sgt. Tom Kearns, detachment commander in Berkeley County, W.Va.

Voute is described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. He has a variety of tattoos that include the word "GOYIM" across his stomach, a shark on his right outer biceps, a biohazard symbol on the inside of his left biceps, a large tribal tattoo on his outer left biceps, a portrait of Adolf Hitler on his back and the word "Resist" on the back of his left arm.

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The search area was expanded from the immediate area where Voute fled from the van, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Jon LaLiberte, who declined to define how large the search area had become. Seven marshals were involved in the search Thursday, along with state police and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, he said.

North Atlantic Extradition Services was taking Voute from Kentucky to New Jersey and had stopped near a closed fast-food restaurant to make a phone call to Eastern Regional Jail, Kearns said.

The van driver was making the call and another North Atlantic employee was asleep in the passenger seat of the van that was transporting Voute and several other prisoners, Kearns said.

The employees heard the van door slide open, and the employee who had been sleeping gave chase but soon lost Voute and called 911, Kearns said.

A woman who answered the phone Thursday afternoon at North Atlantic Extradition Services' offices in Columbus, Miss., said the company would not comment on the escape.

Voute's leg shackles were found about 20 feet from the van, according to Kearns.

Voute also was handcuffed, but neither the handcuffs nor the orange prison clothing he was wearing had been recovered, Kearns said.

"We can only speculate that if he had the ability to remove his leg shackles he had the ability to remove his handcuffs," Kearns said.

Voute had taken off his shoes before escaping, Kearns said. Police have both his shoes and leg shackles, Kearns said.

There had not been any reports of burglaries or car thefts in the area where the escape occurred, Kearns said. Voute had no known connections to Berkeley County or West Virginia, Kearns said.

Kearns asked residents in the area to report even the most minor crimes, including thefts of cell phones from vehicles, or clothes removed from a clothesline.

He noted that many empty structures and old farm buildings, such as barns, had been checked out. He said there were plenty of opportunities for somebody on the run to find food, water, clothing and shelter.

"We were here all yesterday and didn't see anything out of the ordinary," said Jeff Aldridge, whose business, Day Zee May Auto Repairs, on U.S. 11 is about a mile from where the escape occurred. Aldridge said he was unaware of the escape until this morning.

"There's a lot of hiding places ... orchards, farmhouses," Aldridge said. There are old cabins down by the Potomac River and even caves that someone could hole up in, he said.

"A desperate man can do desperate things to get away," Aldridge said.

A Maryland State Police helicopter with heat-detecting capability was used immediately after the escape and overnight into Thursday, Kearns said.

West Virginia and Maryland State Police, Martinsburg Police Department K-9 units, Maryland Division of Corrections bloodhounds and other helicopters participated in the search, according to Kearns.

Andrew DeHaven of Bedington, W.Va., was painting the trim on his garage Thursday morning. He heard helicopters in the area Wednesday, but he thinks Voute is probably out of the area.

"When you're running scared, you'd be surprised how far you can go," DeHaven said.

Voute was a federal inmate being transported to face a carjacking charge in New Jersey, Bergen County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jennifer Monaghan said Thursday. In 2007, Voute was sentenced to 170 months in federal prison on armed robbery charges, she said.

The state carjacking case was associated with a series of robberies Voute was accused of committing in 2005, Monaghan said.

Voute's last known address was in Ordell, N.J., Monaghan said.

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