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In love, guard and inmate accused of hatching deadly escape plot

Forbidden love bloomed this spring in the Osceola County Jail, where a guard and an inmate are accused of hatching a plan to run away together.

Details of the June 22 escape attempt — and how it was foiled — were released Wednesday as the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office builds a case to separate the lovers forever.

Currently split up by more than 100 miles, former corrections Officer Michelle Hung and inmate Angel Santiago await trial on more than a dozen felonies. The charges accuse her of smuggling a pistol to him in case he needed to kill her co-workers.

Hung remains in the Orange County Jail. Santiago is back in a North Florida prison, where he is serving three life sentences for prior violent crimes. His-and-her tattoos are their one lasting bond, according to investigators' records in the case file.

On the night of the escape, cell phone records indicate Hung was waiting outside the jail after Santiago called to say their plan was under way and that he would be coming out soon dressed as a corrections officer.

That might have happened, except Santiago ran into corrections Officer Reeshemah Taylor.

After first taking another corrections officer hostage, Santiago threatened to kill Taylor, 36, when Taylor came searching for her missing colleague. Pointing his pistol at her, Santiago tried to give her orders. She refused.

"He was telling me to be quiet. I grabbed the hand that the gun was in and knocked the gun out of his hand," Taylor wrote in her incident report. "I started hitting him in the back and the head. I somehow managed to pull him down to the floor … put him in a headlock" and then lay on top of him until help arrived.

Hung foreshadowed her role in the escape attempt in the days before, swearing at co-workers while promising trouble, according to a sheriff's investigation.

"I'm going to make this … place remember who … I am," Hung, 44, told co-workers in the days before the attempted escape. She also told them she would "do something to blow the lid off this … place."

But apparently no one reported Hung's profane threats to jail administrators — or that she had appeared in uniform at the jail on the nights of June 19 and 20 despite being on a four-week medical leave.

Each night, she went to Santiago's cell in the medical unit for visits that lasted two hours, records show.

Sheriff's investigators wrote that "an elaborate plan was developed and put into motion for inmate Santiago to escape from the Osceola County Jail while using a firearm," and that Hung slipped the loaded gun through the cell door while another guard was distracted.

The plan included previously smuggling a cell phone to Santiago so they could talk at night without fear of being recorded on the jail's phone.

Still, records show Hung and Santiago discussed the escape plan and their mutual affections in more than a dozen recorded calls filled with code words.

Hired in 2000 to work at the county jail despite being rejected previously as unsuitable by the state Department of Corrections, Hung earned $47,743 a year.

In love, guard and inmate accused of hatching deadly escape plot 08/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 9, 2009 9:22pm]
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