By JIM SALTER
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Authorities in southeast Missouri were conducting a frantic search Tuesday for two murder suspects and a third inmate who escaped from a county jail overnight.
The escape happened around 11:30 p.m. Monday at the Butler County Jail in Poplar Bluff. Authorities say Matthew Brandon Cook, Kade Reaves Stringfellow and Rodney Joe Green escaped through the ceiling. Jail employees discovered that the inmates were missing a short time after the escape, said Frank Casteel, 911 director for Butler County.
Sheriff Mark Dobbs didn't immediately respond to phone messages Tuesday left by The Associated Press, but he told local media that inmates climbed through air ducts to get out. He blamed faulty building design - walls that don't extend all the way up to the ceiling - that he said he and two previous sheriffs have tried to get fixed.
All three suspects were considered armed and extremely dangerous.
"With the severity of their crimes they were being held for, we do believe it's possible they may have the capability to get their hands on weapons," Casteel said.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol, Butler County authorities and police from neighboring counties and towns were assisting in the search that extended as far as Little Rock, Ark. Police suspect the men may have left the Poplar Bluff area, although schools in the town were taking no chances and were limiting access and taking other precautions, Poplar Bluff School District Superintendent Chris Hon said.
Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Clark Parrott said the patrol brought in airplanes to aid in the search.
All three inmates were jailed and awaiting trials.
Cook, 29, is one of two men charged with first-degree murder, robbery and other crimes in the Feb. 19 killing of Sean Crow, 34, of Bernie, Mo., in a McDonald's parking lot in Advance, Mo.
A probable cause statement from Stoddard County deputy Hank Trout said Cook sent a text message to the victim using the cellphone of a woman they both knew, asking Crow to meet at the restaurant. Crow was found slumped over in his pickup truck the next day, dead of a single shot to the head from a .22-caliber pistol. Surveillance video helped lead police to Cook and a man who was with him.
Stringfellow, 23, of Portageville, is charged with second-degree murder in the July death of his infant son, Karson Stringfellow. A probable cause statement from New Madrid County deputy Danny Ware said medical workers became suspicious due to the child's injuries and inconsistent statements by Stringfellow, who claimed he had slipped and fallen while holding the infant.
Doctors at St. Louis Children's Hospital determined the child had bleeding in the brain and both eyes, and multiple fractured ribs and other injuries that they believed were the result of abuse.
Green, 40, of Poplar Bluff, is facing multiple charges for allegedly breaking into a rural Butler County home in February, holding a husband and wife at gunpoint, then shooting them after a struggle before getting away with their pickup truck. The man was struck in the thigh and his wife was shot in the hand. Both survived.
Green was captured days later after a state trooper spotted him driving on a rural road and gave chase. The chase ended when Green's car struck a utility pole and a tree.