"Report blames errors, complacency for R.I. inmate’s escape" by Mina Corpuz and Nicole Fleming Globe Correspondents March 25, 2017
A prisoner’s New Year’s Eve escape from a Rhode Island detention facility was “easily preventable, inexcusable, and directly related to a series of human errors,” according to a report released Friday.
James Morales escaped from the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls and eluded police for five days before his capture in Somerville on Jan. 5.
Three staff members were placed on paid administrative leave because of the incident and one officer resigned, but none of the workers are expected to face criminal charges, according to the preliminary report issued by the facility’s board of directors.
Morales, 35, escaped during recreational time after a guard searching him failed to notice a bedsheet hidden in Morales’s winter coat and a crude, handmade cutting tool in his shoe. He was then left unattended in the yard.
Just before 6:30 p.m., Morales climbed atop a basketball hoop backboard and cut through a chain-link fence. He made his way through razor wire and along the rooftop, hiding periodically behind mounted equipment, before tying the sheet to a lightning rod cable and jumping to the ground. After scaling another fence, he was free.
The 7 p.m. bed check was not conducted — a violation of policy — and another bed check later that night somehow did not note Morales’s absence.
It was 11 p.m. before anyone noticed he was gone. Police were not called until 11:42 p.m.
Since the incident, the report said, steps have been taken to boost security, including removing all freestanding basketball hoops, increasing metal detection for prisoners entering recreation areas, and monitoring them continuously when they are in the yard.
Maybe it's me, but weren't those things being done already?
The board defended staffing at the facility, where 29 employees were working at the time of the escape, and pledged full support of the facility.
“We believe in the many men and women that come to work each day committed to improving the level of care, custody, and control that we provide,” said the board of directors in the report. “We will root out those who are not.”
Smelling like a cover-up now.
The Central Falls mayor, police, and city clerk did not respond to requests for comment Friday night.
Morales, a former Army reservist, was being held in Rhode Island while awaiting trial for allegedly breaking into a Worcester armory in 2015 and stealing weapons. At the time of that crime, he was wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet while awaiting trial on child rape charges that originated in Cambridge.
He faces a charge of escaping from federal authorities.
"Hunt still on for prisoner who escaped from R.I. facility" by Todd Wallack Globe staff January 01, 2017
Police launched a multistate manhunt after a prisoner made a daring escape from a maximum-security federal detention center in Rhode Island on New Year’s Eve, scaling a building, climbing over razor-wire fences, and stealing a getaway vehicle just across the Massachusetts border.
James W. Morales, 35, who was being held on charges that he broke into a Worcester armory and stole a cache of firearms in November 2015, was discovered missing from the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., at 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
My first reaction was smells like crap even if you take it at face value.
US Marshal Jamie Hainsworth said Morales was probably bleeding from injuries he suffered while climbing at least two sections of razor wire.
After the escape, Massachusetts State Trooper Tim Blackwell and a police dog, Klass, tracked Morales’s trail to an area under an Interstate 95 overpass in Massachusetts near the Rhode Island line, where police found what appeared to be discarded prison clothing with blood on it.
Police said the trail ended abruptly there, suggesting he continued his flight by car.
Morales, a former Army reservist, was arraigned in US District Court in Islip, N.Y., in November 2015 on charges he broke into Lincoln W. Stoddard Army Reserve Center in Worcester and stole 10 Sig Sauer 9mm pistols and six M-4 combat rifles.
An FBI affidavit claimed he slipped into the facility and penetrated the vault of weapons by shattering a kitchen window, climbing to the top of a weapons vault, and cutting a hole through layers of metal and wood.
The break-in was particularly bold because Morales was wearing a GPS monitoring device after he was charged in Middlesex County with sexually assaulting a child. Authorities said they used both DNA from bloodstains and data from the monitoring bracelet to place him at the scene.
He later cut the bracelet off, authorities alleged.
Wouldn't he have done that first?
The Middlesex County charges came in 2015 after Morales was accused of sexually touching a friend’s child during an overnight visit to the home of his friend’s mother. Morales pleaded not guilty to charges related to that episode, but he failed to show up for a court appearance in Woburn.
Police asked anyone who spots Morales or has information on his location to immediately call 911.
This is not the first time someone has escaped from Wyatt Detention Facility, which was founded in 1993. Four men fled the jail in 1996 after cutting through a chain-link fence adjacent to an outdoor recreation yard. They then climbed to the roof, and jumped over a razor-wire fence.
But the facility has since been overhauled and expanded. A $47 million project in 2006 more than doubled its maximum capacity to 770 detainees, up from 300.
In its 2015 annual report, the facility said it was “recognized as one of the most secure adult detention facilities in the United States.” Prison administrators did not return calls seeking comment Sunday.
(I'm shaking my head)
But the US Marshals Service vowed to recapture Morales, noting that multiple police agencies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts were involved in the search.
“The United States Marshals Service has a long successful history of finding fugitives and escapees,” Hainesworth said, adding “this force is multiplied by our fugitive task force officers from the Local and State Police from both Rhode Island and Massachusetts.”
“Everything that can be done is being done,” he said....
"2 R.I. detention center workers placed on leave after escape" by Eric Moskowitz Globe Staff January 03, 2017
Two employees from the Rhode Island detention center where a federal inmate made a dramatic New Year’s Eve getaway have been placed on paid leave, the warden said Monday, while officials continue to search for the fugitive and investigate how he made his escape.
Investigators are analyzing numerous leads and have gathered information “from several locations Mr. Morales may have visited since his escape, as well as from evidence seized by law enforcement,” the US Marshals said in a statement.
“We’re working on it,” US Marshal Jamie Hainsworth added by phone.
WPRI in Rhode Island reported that Morales had climbed a basketball hoop during recreation time around 7 p.m. Saturday, cut through fencing, and passed through several rows of razor ribbon before descending to the ground. His absence was not discovered until an inmate count about three hours later.
Recreation time at 7 p.m.? In January? When it is dark outside? And no one in a tower or anything watching?
Morales had been awaiting trial on charges that he broke into a Worcester armory in November 2015 and stole a cache of assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. At the time, he was wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet while awaiting trial in Middlesex County on charges of child rape.
Officials say Morales smashed through a kitchen window at the Army Reserve facility where he had previously served as a medical specialist, scaled a shipping container-sized weapons vault, and cut through that vault’s roof with a power saw and pry bar to steal six M4 carbines and 10 M11 handguns.
The FBI linked Morales to that crime through cellphone records, the coordinates of his monitoring bracelet, which Morales allegedly cut off the next morning, and blood stains left behind in the armory vault, according to an FBI affidavit.
A few months earlier, Morales had been indicted in Middlesex Superior Court on charges of aggravated and forcible rape of a child under 14, for allegedly touching a friend’s child in Cambridge. He pleaded not guilty and was released with a monitoring device while awaiting trial, according to court records.
Morales worked for the Cambridge Department of Public Works in 2013, records show. The morning after the Worcester theft, Morales visited a Dorchester couple, Ashley Bigsbee and Tyrone James, for help selling some of the guns, in exchange for keeping one of the M4 assault rifles, federal officials say.
Three days after that, agents arrested Morales, who has ties to Cambridge and Framingham as well as to New York City, on Long Island, New York. They found six of the stolen weapons, and police later recovered three of the other guns.
Morales’s New Year’s Eve escape came less than three weeks after Bigsbee and James pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing, storing, and selling stolen firearms and to lying to the FBI. Lawyers for Bigsbee and James, who have yet to be sentenced, said they did not engage in plea deals with the government in exchange for testifying against Morales.
“There’s no plea agreement with my client. She hasn’t cooperated with the government . . . [and] she hasn’t been offered anything by the government,” said Blake Rubin, Bigsbee’s lawyer. Rubin described Morales as an acquaintance of Bigsbee prior to the gun deal.
“She barely knew him,” Rubin said.
Jonathan Shapiro, James’s lawyer, said by e-mail that “James will not be testifying against” Morales, and declined to comment further.
The mayor of Central Falls, James A. Diossa said in a statement that he found the escape “extremely concerning,” and that the city expects “a high level of safety and security for our residents.” The mayor said he was still awaiting “a full briefing on what has occurred.”
Especially at an award-winning facility.
"Framingham woman says fugitive knocked on her door" by Andy Rosen Globe Staff January 03, 2017
FRAMINGHAM — Authorities continued Tuesday to search for Morales in Framingham and around the region, reminding the public that he is dangerous and could be armed.
Officials would not discuss whether he had been in the town, but they said Framingham police were involved in the case, and State Police Colonel Richard D. McKeon acknowledged during a news conference that his agency had stepped up its presence in the town.
“That’s not to say he’s there or not, but we’re giving it everything we have,” McKeon said.
The 35-year-old Morales, a former Army reservist, escaped Saturday night from the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, a privately operated jail in Central Falls, R.I., crossing into Massachusetts before allegedly stealing a getaway car in Attleboro.
In a statement, prison warden Daniel Martin said the facility “is conducting a top to bottom investigation,” that includes “interviewing all officers on duty and all prisoners in the escaped detainee’s cellblock.’’
The facility is cooperating with an investigation being conducted by the US marshal’s office, Rhode Island State Police, and the Central Falls police, the statement said.
According to court records, Morales had also served probation on a 2013 Cambridge aggravated assault and battery case in which he acknowledged that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict him.
He had been accused of climbing into a window of the mother of his child, taking off his pants, climbing into bed with her, and then throwing her quilt out the window. He then punched the woman, who was eight months pregnant, three times in the face, according to a police report.
In Framingham, Lugo said she was troubled by Morales’s criminal history. She is chilled when she looks back at the encounter. The knocks seemed urgent, angry, she said, and she later found an exterior door of the apartment building broken — though she’s not certain how that happened.
After Morales appeared, authorities searched the apartment, and took away the neighbor he knew, Lugo said. She believes that was for security reasons. “It feels better knowing she is safe,” Lugo said.
I'm sorry, but in addition to the outlandish escape this is really pushing the credibility thing beyond belief. He knocked on a door -- or didn't knock on a door, who knows -- to draw attention to his location.
Oh, right, he wanted next door.
Lugo said she did not notice injuries on Morales — authorities have said he may have cut himself during the escape — and said he did not appear to be wearing jail clothes.
He had a small bag, she said, and she later identified him for authorities based on a distinctive tattoo. Investigators have said he is black, bald, and has a tattoo of an eagle on the left side of his neck.
Many in the Framingham neighborhood are also feeling anxious. Fabiano Da Silva was answering the door at his parents’ house down Irving Street.
Never let a good fear go to waste.
His mother was frightened after another neighbor alerted her to the Morales sighting, so he came over. “I’m afraid, but just to make sure my parents will be fine, I’ll stay here all day,” he said....
I think it was the way he was caught that was the clincher:
"Mass. trooper snares R.I. fugitive after 5-day manhunt" by Eric Moskowitz and Travis Andersen Globe Staff January 05, 2017
SOMERVILLE — A five-day, round-the-clock manhunt for a potentially dangerous federal fugitive who made a brazen escape from a Rhode Island detention center ended Thursday with a foot chase in Somerville, where a veteran state trooper snared James W. Morales as he tried to jump a fence in the Ten Hills neighborhood.
The 114-hour search, which began when Morales was discovered missing during a New Year’s Eve head count at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, came to a dramatic end around 4 p.m.
Trooper Joseph Merrick, responding to a report of an attempted bank robbery nearby, spotted Morales walking near McGrath Highway and Mystic Avenue, sparking a two-block chase that ended on Wheatland Street, officials said.
Morales hopped a fence with Merrick in pursuit and ran toward Wheatland Street, where he briefly avoided detection by hiding under a porch, State Police Colonel Richard McKeon said at a Thursday evening press briefing.
But he then tried to climb another fence, and Merrick pounced, grabbing hold of him as he was at the top of the fence and tackling him to the ground.
“After a foot chase, a couple fences, I was able to get him into custody” with the help of a fellow trooper and two Somerville detectives, Merrick said during the briefing held at the State Police barracks in Medford. “It was a great job by everybody.”
It's now smelling like crisis drill.
The capture of a man wanted in two states shocked local residents of the densely packed street. Arjun Poudel, 45, said “It’s kind of scary.”
FBI Special Agent Hank Shaw, head of the bureau’s Boston office, said a man later identified as Morales tried to rob a Bank of America branch on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge just after 9:20 a.m.
Yeah, that won't draw any attention.
Couldn't find himself a convenience store or empty house? Or anywhere else for that matter?
Seriously, I'm a fugitive on the run and I need money so I should.... rob a bank?
I guess genius only goes so far!
He said authorities tracked “a number of leads” throughout the day.
Around 3:20 p.m., Shaw said, Morales tried to rob a second bank, this time a Citizens branch at 338 Broadway in Somerville, leading to the initial encounter between Merrick and Morales about 20 minutes later.
Alright, that does it!
McKeon said that before Morales was caught, he ditched a motorcycle helmet, gloves, and a fanny pack, and that investigators were processing those items Thursday night.
Somerville and Cambridge had been on alert all day, attuned to the sound of helicopters overhead and the sight of police searching everywhere from bustling Central Square to the quiet marsh around Alewife Station, after a man who matched Morales’s description — but with a scarf and hoodie obscuring the distinctive eagle tattoo on his neck — attempted the first bank robbery in Cambridge.
At 9:21 a.m., a suspect police described as a black male, wearing a scarf, a knit cap, and a black jacket over a gray hoodie, tried to rob the Central Square Bank of America branch by passing a note to a teller but escaped without any money. Photos quickly released by the FBI showed a man who closely resembled the 35-year-old Morales.
Somerville schools canceled outdoor activities for the rest of the day as a precaution.
Juliana Rivera, 15, who said word of the fugitive dominated discussion at school, arrived home to Wheatland Street to find a crush of cruisers coming both ways down the one-way street, and the sight of one officer sliding across the back of a parked car as he joined the fast-paced pursuit.
“Everyone was just running,” said Rivera, who did not see Morales in the chase. “I was super scared.”
Morales, a former Army Reserve medical logistics specialist, was being held in Rhode Island while awaiting trial for allegedly breaking into a Worcester armory in 2015 and cutting through the ceiling of a weapons vault to steal six assault rifles and 10 semiautomatic pistols. At the time, he was wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet while awaiting trial on child-rape charges that originated in Cambridge.
His escape came less than three weeks after a Dorchester couple pleaded guilty to being Morales’s co-conspirators, helping to store and sell some of the weapons and mislead the FBI.
Morales, who has ties to Cambridge and Framingham as well as New York City, reportedly escaped from the Wyatt facility — a privately run jail for federal detainees in Central Falls — by climbing a basketball hoop in the exercise yard and cutting and climbing through layers of razor-wire fencing around 7 p.m. last Saturday, about three hours before corrections officers noticed he was missing.
He then crossed the border into Massachusetts and stole a car in nearby Attleboro, sparking what the US Marshals Service called a “large-scale, around-the-clock . . . manhunt.”
It is unclear how Morales, who earlier this week was spotted in Framingham, ended up in Cambridge and Somerville.
Public records show Morales worked for a few months for both the Cambridge Housing Authority and the Cambridge Department of Public Works as a maintenance worker and laborer in 2013.
For a brief time, Morales lived at Central House, a 128-unit substance-free community, an employee said. The residence is near the Bank of America branch Morales allegedly attempted to rob Thursday.
According to court records, Morales also served probation on a 2013 Cambridge aggravated assault and battery case.
In Rhode Island Thursday evening, the chairman of the detention-center board called the escape “wholly and entirely unacceptable and inexcusable” and said the board has instructed Wyatt’s warden to conduct a complete review of the facility, including interviewing every officer and detainee....
It looks to me now like they let their little rabbit loose in some sort of deal.
"James Morales’ escape from R.I. jail captured on video" by John R. Ellement Globe Staff January 06, 2017
Some four hours elapsed before officials at the maximum-security Rhode Island jail realized that James W. Morales had escaped, even though his entire New Year’s Eve getaway was captured on surveillance cameras, according to federal court records released Friday.
(Blog editor just shaking head. No one watching, huh?)
A correction officer at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility marked Morales present at his 10:30 p.m. bed check, but then realized Morales, who is facing federal gun trafficking charges, was not in his cell, according to an affidavit by US Deputy Marshal Charles J. Wyant.
Another 30 minutes passed before the officer, identified only as “Officer Spano,’’ notified his superiors that Morales was missing, Wyant wrote.
Officials then reviewed the jail’s surveillance video and discovered the following:
■ At 4:26 p.m., video shows Morales entering the recreation area by himself.
■ At 6:23 p.m., Morales can be seen “standing on a basketball hoop in the recreation area.”
■ At 6:30 p.m., Morales “was able to access the roof through a hole created in the recreation area roof fence.”
■ At 6:47 p.m., Morales “is observed coming down the side of the building and running toward the train tracks.’’
A State Police dog tracked Morales down the railroad tracks to a location near Interstate 95. “At this location, prison attire was located,’’ Wyant wrote.
Morales, 35, spent 114 hours on the run until he was captured Thursday in Somerville by a Massachusetts State Police trooper. A law enforcement dragnet had descended on the Cambridge-Somerville area, where Morales was allegedly spotted trying to rob two banks.
On Friday, Morales appeared in US District Court in Providence, where he waived his right to a detention hearing and was ordered held without bail by Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan.
He faces a charge of escaping from federal authorities, according to the Rhode Island US attorney’s office.
Prosecutors argued that Morales was a flight risk, in light of recent events.
He also won't be talking to anyone, either.
Morales, a former Army Reserve medical logistics specialist, was being held in Rhode Island while awaiting trial for allegedly breaking into a Worcester armory in 2015 and cutting through the ceiling of a weapons vault to steal six assault rifles and 10 semiautomatic pistols. At the time, he was wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet while awaiting trial on child rape charges that originated in Cambridge.
On Thursday, the chairman of the detention center board called the escape “wholly and entirely unacceptable and inexcusable” and said the board has instructed Wyatt’s warden to conduct a complete review of the facility, including interviewing every officer and detainee.
Also see: Morales arraigned on federal escape charge