Topeka — A convicted murderer and another inmate remained at large after escaping from a Kansas jail where they'd been transferred because of overcrowding at a state prison. Two others were apprehended, one after he turned himself in at a Walmart in Nebraska.
Authorities acknowledged Wednesday night that they were not sure where Santos Carrera-Morales and Eric James, both 22, might be headed after their escape earlier that day from Ottawa County Jail in Minneapolis, a small town about 120 miles west of Topeka. Carrera-Morales was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with two killings in 2007.
Two other inmates escaped from the jail with them about 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, but one was apprehended quickly.
Authorities said the other, Drew Wade, 21, was alone when he was taken into custody in North Platte, Neb., about 13 hours after the jail break. Wade had traveled in a stolen minivan to the Nebraska town, about 240 miles northwest of the Kansas jail, authorities said.
Wade told North Platte police that he had phoned his father, and that his father persuaded him to turn himself in.
"He walked into the local Walmart," said police Sgt. Gary Hovey. "He approached the manager and asked him to call the police."
Authorities said that the escaped inmates stole at least two vehicles and it was not clear whether James and Carrera-Morales were traveling together. Authorities also said the two should be considered armed and dangerous, and North Platte police were warning that they could be in the area.
But Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Ben Gardner said authorities can't be sure which direction James and Carrera-Morales were headed.
Hovey said Wade told North Platte police, "They all went in separate directions after they got out."
The inmates, armed with homemade knives, overpowered guards at the Kansas jail after complaining about a broken water line in the holding cell area, Ottawa County Sheriff Keith Coleman told The Salina Journal. Coleman, who didn't return messages from The Associated Press, said the inmates were able to open the cell doors and make their way outside. The guards suffered only minor injuries.
The four men were among 22 inmates who had been transferred in January from the Ellsworth Correctional Facility to help alleviate overcrowding — a prickly issue in Kansas. The Ottawa County Jail passed an inspection before it was allowed to house prison inmates, said Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay.
Carrera-Morales was 17 when he and two other people were convicted of first-degree murder for the deaths of a teenager and a young man in Sedgwick County in March 2007. Police in Wichita, where Carrera-Morales has ties, said all were gang members.
James was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping and criminal damage charges across three counties for crimes in February 2008, while Wade was convicted of robbery and aggravated battery, according to online prison records. Records also show the three had numerous disciplinary issues while behind bars.
Barclay said Wade, James and Carrera-Morales had medium-security status and were deemed candidates for being housed outside the prison. He said the status is based on an evaluation of the individual upon entering the prison system.
The escape led to the cancellation of classes Wednesday at North Ottawa County schools, and Minneapolis was locked down for part of the morning.
Overcrowding in Kansas' prisons has been exacerbated in recent years by closures and budget cuts. As of Friday, 87 inmates were being housed in five county jails under contracts to help alleviate overcrowding, receiving an average of $40 a day per inmate, Barclay said.
Inmate counts earlier this year showed men's prisons are housing 8,635 inmates, 266 over capacity.
The Department of Corrections wants to purchase a boys' home at the Ellsworth prison to provide 95 additional beds.
"We'd better get that done because, apparently, farming them out doesn't work," said Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, a Republican whose district includes the prison.
Associated Press reporters John Milburn in Topeka, Kan., and Bill Draper in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.