Wyoming Prisoner Escapes from Private Transport Van, Remains on the Run
by Mark Wilson
If his history is any indication, Wyoming fugitive Kenneth James Ward probably didn’t need a head start. But he got one when a private prison transport company let him get away and did not report the escape for almost 90 minutes.
In 2010, Ward, 51, disappeared after stealing vehicles and equipment worth more than $100,000 from a Farson, Wyoming trucking company.
The trail quickly went cold, but the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) never gave up the pursuit. They finally caught a break when they discovered that Ward was hiding out in Northern Mexico.
Federal law enforcement officials persuaded Mexican authorities to arrest Ward and deport him to the United States, according to an August 23, 2013 SCSO media release. Case closed, or so they thought.
Things went south after Sweetwater County hired Inmate Services Corporation (ISC), a private Arkansas-based transportation company, to extradite Ward from Arizona.
When the ICS transport van stopped at an Independence Rock, Wyoming rest area to give the prisoners a bathroom break on August 31, 2013, Ward disappeared. Surveillance footage showed him wearing handcuffs but no shackles or belly chain as he slipped out of the restroom and fled.
Worse, the two ISC guards waited nearly an hour-and-a-half to notify local law enforcement officials of Ward’s escape as they unsuccessfully searched for him themselves, according to Natrona County Sheriff Gus Holbrook.
Once they were finally notified, local law enforcement launched an extensive manhunt, searching 52 square miles on the ground and 134 miles by air. Despite tracking his footprints and using thermal imaging and night vision, they came up empty.
“He was probably outside that perimeter, walking away,” Holbrook stated. “By the time we got on the tracks the next morning, he’d had all night to walk.”
SCSO detective Dick Blust, Jr. said he was unsure if the county would employ ISC again; company representatives declined to comment on the escape. As of May 2015 – nearly two years later – Ward had not been recaptured.
Sources: www.dailyjoumal.net, Associated Press, www.trib.com
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