Corrections Officers Thwart St. Clair County Jail Escape Plot

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BELLEVILLE, IL (KTVI) - A jailbreak was thwarted in St. Clair County. Now, the four men who tried to escape are in solitary confinement.

It sounds like a scene from a big screen thriller: inmates squeezing through a hole and crawling through air ducts, until they finally take their first breath of freedom.  But for several St. Clair County inmates, freedom is now even farther away.

It’s a plot that corrections officers discovered slowly, overhearing some conversations and seeing the same four people huddled in the corner.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson says, “They had this master plan, and they were gonna knock a hole through the ceiling, and chisel their way through.”

Then came the hard evidence, thanks to Watson’s cleanup program. He explains, “We give the inmates mops and buckets to clean their cells out with, and they probably, over time, started chiseling away at this spot with what we think was a mop handle.”

The scratched mop, rumors and surveillance led the officers to one cell for a surprise inspection.

That’s where they found a napkin stuck to the ceiling with toothpaste, covering a fist-sized hole in the concrete.

“These guys are very creative,” Watson says, “You have to remember they have all day long in their cells to sit around and just think of ideas like this.”

That innovation is why the sheriff knows it’s important to have experienced, watchful staff, who uncovered the hole after just a few days.

He explains, “I think they were gonna try to make it big enough to actually work their way through there, but that was gonna take them a long time to do that. And I don’t know where they thought they were gonna go.”

Now, that answer is clear: solitary confinement in steel cells, where no chiseling is possible.

On top of their original charges, Deangelo Wiley, Devin Warren, Daniel Brown and Joshua Baker are all charged with Attempted Escape, a Class 3 felony.