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Escaped New Hampshire Prisoners Caught Camping

Three escaped New Hampshire pris-oners were captured at a Massachusetts campground just one day after their daring daylight getaway.

Kevin Gil, Philip J. Dick and Christopher McNeil negotiated their temporary freedom from New Hampshire State Prison (NHSP) in Concord by cutting through two security fences topped with razor wire. Shane Laslie, a former prisoner, supplied the trio with a getaway car.

Gil, Dick and McNeil worked in a building trades program at NHSP. On Wednesday, June 4, 2003 the three men managed to slip away unseen shortly after 10:00 a.m. Twenty minutes passed before they were missed.

Shielded by woods surrounding the work site the escapees made their way to Interstate 89 where they abandoned their prison clothes which were eventually found by a passing jogger. The ensuing search took New Hampshire State Police and Massachusetts State Police into surrounding states and even into Canada.

The media hyped the residents of nearby Concord to believe that the trio was possibly armed and dangerous.

"I'm sure it must have been hair-raising for many of the old folks on this street," said Dan O'Conner, a local resident and owner of a car dealership in Concord.

"You never give it a second thought," said resident Brian George. "It's sobering now that it happened. You open your eyes and you say, `Wow, we got some dangerous people running around here.'"

Phone calls and written correspondence eventually led New Hampshire State police to Laslie who was holed up in a Salem, New Hampshire motel. Rather than face interrogation Laslie shot himself in the head and died shortly thereafter. Laslie had been released from Concord prison in 2002 after serving two years for cocaine possession.

Later the same day, about 3:20 p.m. June 5th, Massachusetts State Police surrounded the escapees at a campground about 100 miles from the prison. Dick was apprehended as he walked toward the manager's office. Gil and McNeil were inside a tent when they were eventually cornered and surrendered. None of the men were armed.

Guard's union president Gary Smith blamed the escape on a shortage of staff. "I wasn't surprised that something like this happened," said Smith. "We have been warning elected officials of the danger of short-staffing and the threat it represents to the public, the guards and the inmate's safety."

Department of Corrections spokesman Jeff Lyons refutes Smith's claims saying that the prison was fully staffed, with 70 guards, when the trio escaped.

"The prison warden has declared that we are fully staffed for an institution of this size," Lyons said. NHSP houses 1,350 prisoners and employs 350 guards.

Clearly there is plenty blame to go around. Workshop tools which investi- gators believe were used to cut through the fence had not been returned into inventory the day before. A week earlier a pair of bolt-cutters had been found near the fence.

Surveillance cameras purchased by the prison last year had never been installed. "We bought the equipment in the past year and we were working on getting it installed," said Corrections Commissioner Phil Stanley. He also cited staff shortage as a reason for infrequent patrols and the cameras not being in place.

Stanley also noted that two of the prisoners were considered escape risks and should not have been in the building trades program. At the time of the escape, Gil was serving a 45-year sentence for murder; Dick was serving 15-30 years for attempted murder of a policeman; McNeil was a parole violator with past convictions for drugs, forgery and theft.

If all that were not enough, at least one guard was told by a prisoner of the planned escape the day before it happened. That guard informed prison investigator Clayton Legault about the tip but Legault never acted on the information.

Not only was his tip disregarded, that same helpful prisoner is now purportedly in danger because the state Attorney General and prison officials leaked his name to the general prison population.

Prisoner Robert King is now labeled a snitch" in NHSP, a label that may have negative repercussions.

Associate Atty. General Ann Rice admits that her office may have leaked King's name unintentionally.

"That's something we are investigating right now," Rice said. "Whether we identified him or not is unclear at this point."

King's attorney, Richard Cowan of Salem, calls the Attorney General's actions inexcusable and he has accused NHSP guards of leaking King's name on purpose.

"It's just absolutely inappropriate. They have an obligation to protect him," Cowan said. " informant's name is supposed to be protected."

Rice admits that the documents containing King's name should have been redacted before they were released. .

King has been transferred to an Oregon prison for his own protection. Legault, who ignored King's warning, was demoted and dismissed from the NHSP investigation-unit.

Shortly after the escape, Corrections Commissioner Stanley announced he was resigning and returning to Washington where he had been employed by the Washington Department of Corrections. Stanley is best known as the warden of the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton who hurriedly left that post when threatened by white supremacist guards. See May, 1999, PLN for details.

Sources: Associated Press, The Toledo Blade, Burlington Free Press, Boston Globe

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