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Missouri Jail Guard Charged With Helping Teen Son Escape Juvenile Detention

by Jo Ellen Nott

On October 25, 2022, a guard at the St. Louis County Justice Center (SLJC) was charged with shattering a window at the building to help her son and another teen escape custody of county juvenile authorities. As a result, Michelle Royal, 39, now faces two felony counts of hindering the prosecution of a felony.

The two unnamed boys, both 17, escaped on May 29, 2022. The charges against Royal allege that she gave her son a cellphone after the escape, sent money through an app to another relative accompanying the escaped young men, and was in the same location in SLJC with them the day of the jailbreak. The charging document also indicates that cellphone records show Royal was in regular contact with the teenagers after the jailbreak.

The morning after the escape, one of the juvenile suspects was observed meeting someone who provided him “transportation and firearms.” When that person was arrested, he was identified as Aaqil Z. Royal, 20, who shares an address with Michelle Royal. He told police that she was providing similar assistance.

Detectives then seized her phone and discovered an active Cash App account. After obtaining a search warrant for the account, they found that Royal activated the number of the cellphone her son had in his possession when caught. Detectives were also able to ascertain that Royal’s cellphone traveled to an area near the cellphone of at least one of the teen suspects.

On May 31, 2022, Royal’s son called her cellphone two times while she was on duty as a guard at SLJC. One minute after the second call, Royal transferred money via Cash App to a subject – believed to be Aaqil Royal – in a similar location as her son’s phone.

The investigation revealed “numerous contacts” between Royal and her son over a period of seven days before he and his fellow escapee were apprehended in connection with a carjacking in St. Louis County. The teens were arrested and returned to custody by June 7, 2022, court documents show.

Aaqil Royal was recorded on video giving the young men rides to and from their hideout and supplying them with guns. He also faces two counts of hindering the prosecution of a felony and is being held on $50,000 cash-only bail. Michelle Royal’s bail was set at $30,000, also cash-only. She was hired in 2020 as guard at SLJC and earned $49,000 in 2021. 

Sources:  KMOV, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

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