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Four inmates use knife to flee Texas jail

 
Published Jan. 30, 2002|Updated Sept. 2, 2005

Authorities set up roadblocks Tuesday and searched North Texas by helicopter for four inmates _ two killers and two people awaiting trial on murder charges _ who broke out of jail by overpowering guards with a homemade knife.

The FBI joined the search as officials warned that the fugitives might be headed to other states.

"We have just about everybody out just in case they slip through," said Dee Hazle, a sheriff's dispatcher in Waurika, Okla., 45 miles northwest of Montague.

The inmates were identified as Curtis Gambill, 24, of Terral, Okla.; Joshua Bagwell, 23, of Waurika, Okla.; Crystal Gale Soto, 22, a woman from Bowie, Texas; and Charles Jordan, 30, of Bowie.

Gambill and Bagwell were serving life sentences in the October 1996 murder of 16-year-old Oklahoma cheerleader Heather Rose Rich.

Soto and Jordan were arrested in November and charged with killing James Christmas, 76, and Ullain Christmas, 79, whom they had been staying with.

"These are some of the most dangerous individuals that exist in our society," District Attorney Tim Cole said. "There's no question in my mind they'll arm themselves at the first opportunity. The two men with life sentences just have absolutely nothing to lose."

It was not known if the inmates had stayed together or split up after the escape late Monday from the Montague County Jail.

Officials said there was a chance the four might have left Texas. Authorities were alerted in the states where the fugitives have relatives and friends _ Oklahoma, Missouri, Oregon and Alaska.

On Tuesday, a discarded black-and-white jail uniform was found under a tree near the jail.

Cole said Gambill and Jordan, wielding the homemade knife, attacked a female guard who had opened the men's cell to retrieve a cleaning bucket.

The inmates forced the guard and the only other guard on duty to release Bagwell and Soto, and placed the guards in a confined area.

The prisoners walked out the back door and drove off in a jailer's sport utility vehicle, Cole said.

The guards were not hurt and were able to escape and alert deputies.

Cole said the jail was full at the time of the breakout, "but that's no excuse for lousy security."

Eight inmates had been transferred to another county Monday, bringing the Montague jail population down to 47, within state staffing requirements, said Terry Julian, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.