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Escape Costs Private Transport Company

A private prisoner transport company agreed to pay $50,000 to the state of North Dakota to defray the state's expenses for recapturing a prisoner who spent three months as a fugitive after escaping from one of its buses.

Convicted child killer Kyle Bell was being transported from North Dakota to Oregon by TransCor America, Inc. when he escaped October 13, 1999, while the transport bus was refueling at Santa Rosa, New Mexico. TransCor guards failed to notice his absence for nine hours.

Bell was recaptured January 9, 2000 after authorities received a tip from a Dallas couple about his whereabouts. The couple collected a $50,000 reward posted by the state for information leading to Bell's recapture.

The settlement which TransCor paid May 31, 2000, is less than half the $102,127 the state billed the company in January. That bill includes the $50,000 reward as well as the salaries of nine state employees involved in the search for Bell.

TransCor (a subsidiary of Corrections Corporation of America) initially offered to cover $10,000 of the $50,000 reward. Attorney General Heidi Heitcamp threatened to sue the company if the full $102,127 bill was not paid.

North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer said the settlement was "reasonable and fair." But the Attorney General, who wasn't consulted by the governor's office about the settlement, was critical of the low amount. TransCor's vice president David Tucker Jr. said the settlement was "good news."

A spokesperson from the governor's office said TransCor caries a $50 million liability insurance policy to cover escapes. But that policy requires the company to pay the first $100,000 of any claim.

A settlement with North Dakota doesn't end TransCor's legal battles over Bell's escape. In March, the family of Bell's victim sued TransCor in North Dakota district court for more than $50,000 for negligence and inflicting emotional distress.

Source: Bismark Herald

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