Inmate professes love, takes blame for escape

Inmate John Manard, left, is followed by Safe Harbor Prison Dog Program President Toby Young as he walks his dog on the grounds of the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kan., Dec, 8, 2005. Proclaiming his deep love for an

? Proclaiming his deep love for “an angel” and continuing to deny that he was a violent criminal, John Manard said he was solely responsible for his escape in a dog crate from a Kansas prison.

In a four-page letter to television station KCTV in Kansas City, Manard said he loved Toby Young, a 48-year-old married mother of two, “more than life” and he planned the escape from Lansing Correctional Facility so he could be with her. KCTV said Manard’s sister verified that the handwriting was her brother’s.

“We have a fairytale love the size of infinity that’s been lived by 2 real people,” Manard wrote in the letter, which the TV station posted on its Web site. “She means more to me than my own life.”

The convicted murderer said he was writing to “clear up some things” about Young’s involvement in the Feb. 12 escape, when she drove a van used by the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program out of the prison while Manard, 27, was in a dog crate in the back.

After a highly publicized search, the two were arrested Feb. 24 near Chattanooga, Tenn., where they had rented a secluded cabin. They were caught shortly after coming out of a Barnes & Noble bookstore, and authorities said the cabin was full of things the two bought while on the run.

In the letter, Manard said Young planned to help him only by getting a lawyer, then was going to leave her husband to start over with Manard. He claimed Young did not know he was “in a box” inside a barrel in the back of the van when she drove away on Feb. 12. He said Young “almost wrecked the van” when he jumped out 10 minutes later.

Manard also claims Young at first wanted to go back and explain that the caper had been a mistake, but he convinced her that prison officials wouldn’t be understanding. And after seeing her picture on the “America’s Most Wanted” television show, she was “scared to death to leave me,” he wrote.

Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell said Thursday that investigators had sufficient evidence the day after the escape to receive warrants for Young’s arrest for aiding Manard’s escape.

And he reiterated earlier reports that prison officials believe Young bought a new car without her family’s knowledge, took two guns from home, amassed thousands of dollars in cash and bought hair dye and an electric razor before the escape.

Young is charged with aiding and abetting aggravated escape, and harboring and concealing a felon. Her attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

Manard was serving a life sentence for the 1996 murder of Donald England in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kan., during a carjacking.

In the letter, he said he was not the “stone-cold killer” he was being depicted as, claiming he merely drove the car during England’s murder and “never hurt anyone then or before that day.” He also said he did not plan to commit any more crimes after he escaped.

Johnson County Atty. Paul Morrison, who prosecuted Manard in England’s death, was out of town Thursday.

The inmate concluded the letter by asking if Young was all right and pleading that she not be slandered anymore.