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Razor wire, pregnancy can't stop Zephyrhills escape artist

Amanda Driggers can't resist the tempting taste of freedom.

On her way to jail last year, she popped an inside panel off a sheriff's cruiser door and silently slipped out. She eased her wrists out of her handcuffs and was gone.

Her escape didn't last long — authorities caught up to her within hours, on a friend's front porch, sound asleep.

Later when her case came up in court, Driggers got a break — in-patient drug rehabilitation that, if completed, could lighten her jail sentence. But after barely a month at the Covenant House, she vanished out of a bathroom window.

That was in January. Driggers didn't resurface again until October, when she was arrested in a small town in Kentucky, 650 miles from Pasco County.

She went to jail and, true to form, escaped again.

• • •

Driggers is 20 years old, just 4 feet 10 with a tangle of brownish-blonde hair. Her son, about 3 now, is in state custody.

She grew up in Zephyrhills with a drug-addicted mother and started getting in trouble early. By age 13, Driggers had already been suspended from school, put on probation and ordered into domestic violence counseling.

Juvenile probation reports paint her as a disruptive student who skipped class and shouted at authorities. Once, she tried to run away from her mother at a bowling alley. When her mom caught her, Amanda kicked her in the legs and tried to choke her inside their car.

Drug addiction factors into all of her arrests, which include charges of burglary, criminal mischief and retail theft. According to court records, a hospital drug test performed in July 2009 revealed she had amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazapines, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and opiates in her system.

Her mother, Theresa Driggers, died recently from an overdose.

Amanda is now pregnant again.

• • •

After she took off from drug rehab early this year, she made her way with her boyfriend to eastern Kentucky, where his mother lives.

Florida authorities had a warrant out for her arrest, but she managed to stay in the shadows until Sept. 29 when she and her boyfriend were arrested together in Booneville.

That was the same day a group of photojournalism students from the University of Kentucky were in town for a photography workshop. Britney McIntosh, a senior, was taking pictures at the Three Forks Regional Dentention Center. She met Driggers and decided to make her the focus of her project.

Two days later, a Friday, Driggers made her break. McIntosh was there with her camera.

She captured an image of Driggers clearing the fence, which was topped with razor wire. She clicked two more shots of the petite, pregnant girl in orange and white jail garb sprinting into some woods. A female guard yelled into a radio.

Outside the jail, Driggers ditched her jail jumpsuit. She had a T-shirt and flannel pajama pants on underneath. With guards swarming all around, she crouched and hid under some brush.

But soon — 12 minutes according to the time stamp on McIntosh's pictures — she was caught and marched back to confinement, freedom fading behind her.

Ahead of her is a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years. Her baby is due in the spring.

For now, she's home again in Pasco County, jail Pod B, Unit 600.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Razor wire, pregnancy can't stop Zephyrhills escape artist 11/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 15, 2010 3:25pm]
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