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Inmate breaks out of Alachua jail

Published Oct. 6, 2005

An murder suspect who is also a pilot escaped from the new Alachua County Jail, police said Thursday.

The jail is across a highway from Gainesville Regional Airport, where it appeared someone may have tried to hot-wire some planes, police said.

Richard Anthony Meissner, 27, of Orange Park, was reported missing about 5 a.m. Thursday during a bed check of the jail pod where he was being held, said Lt. Don Dennis, a police spokesman. He was last seen in a check made at about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

"We have completed a thorough search and he has indeed escaped," Steve Russell, an Alachua County spokesman, said Thursday.

Meissner is charged with the stabbing death of a University of Florida graduate student last fall and the wounding of her roommate.

The 6-foot-2, 178-pound Meissner is considered extremely dangerous.

Russell said Meissner apparently escaped by scaling a 25-foot wall and climbing a fence in the recreation area of the new jail.

Dogs were brought in to search the jail's air vents and a bloodhound was brought over from Nassau County to search the jail grounds, Dennis said.

The county is in the process of transferring inmates from an old jail to a new lockup, but the two jails are connected. Meissner had already been moved to the new facility.

Meissner is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Gina Marie Langevin. The University of Florida graduate student died of stab wounds to her chest and back shortly after she was attacked last Sept. 18 at The Garden apartments in Gainesville.

Her roommate, Jena Hull, received stab wounds to the chest and head and survived by hanging from a balcony at the apartment. Meissner was charged with attempted first-degree murder for the attack on Ms. Hull.

Dennis said Ms. Hull still lives in the Gainesville area, and was moved to a safe location by authorities after the escape.

In addition, Meissner has made threats in the past against witnesses, the State Attorney's Office, and the Public Defender's Office. Witnesses have been contacted, Dennis said, and warned that Meissner had escaped.

The new county jail is across the road from the Gainesville airport and Meissner is a pilot. No planes are missing, officials of the two fixed-based operators there, Gulf Atlantic and Kenn Air, said Thursday afternoon.

Dennis said at least two aircraft looked like someone had tried to hot wire them, but he did not know if there was any connection to Meissner.

Authorities also have gone to Meissner's parent's home in Orange Park, where he was arrested following the September killing.

Although officials never gave a motive for Meissner's alleged attack on Ms. Langevin, police said she knew of his involvement in a 1989 apartment arson case and that he had dated one of her former roommates.

Meissner is scheduled to go to trial next month.

Meissner is considered a suspect but has never been charged in an arson fire that destroyed six private planes in March 1992 at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.