Officials said this week a small mistake led to huge consequences after a deputy at the Kentucky River Regional Jail dropped a set of keys inside the facility, ultimately allowing four inmates to escape.
Jail Administrator Lonnie Brewer said Wednesday that there is an ongoing investigation into the incident and that law enforcement officials were still looking for three of the four escapees.
“Yesterday (July 8) after dinner, roughly when they were picking up trays, one of the deputies dropped a set of keys,” said Brewer. “Unfortunately the keys were swept into a cell before the deputy realized he had lost his keys.”
Brewer said that roughly 40 minutes after the keys were dropped, four individuals used the keys to escape the jail.
“They were able to go through door 183 and then through the lobby doors and made their way out going toward Walmart through the admin doors,” said Brewer.
He added that the booth operator attempted to override the door before the individuals could unlock it but was unable to do so.
“When the inmates went out the door, our booth operator tried to keep them secure by overriding the lock to keep them in and when they did get through, deputies were in pursuit,” said Brewer.
One of the inmates, John Sexton, was captured in the Walmart parking lot and taken back to jail. Three other inmates remained at large as of presstime Wednesday.
“One of the deputies was able to run him (Sexton) down and pin him against the wall over at Walmart and bring him back to the jail,” Brewer said.
The three inmates still sought, according to the Hazard Police Department, are Steven Ray Smith, 38, who was being held on charges of flagrant non-support, first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and second-degree burglary; James E. Reed, 25, who was being held on charges of trafficking in marijuana, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and fourth-degree assault; and Kenneth Franklin Spurlock, 29, who was being held on charges of first-degree promoting contraband, fleeing or evading police and tampering with evidence.
Brewer said that two of the three escapees are residents of Perry County and are believed to be receiving help from individuals in the community.
“We do believe that they had some assistance once they left the jail,” said Brewer. “We are following up on some leads. Hopefully, they come to fruition and we can catch not only them, but the ones that they are with for aiding and abetting.”
Brewer said that the the deputy who dropped the set of keys and failed to place the jail on lockdown after realizing they had lost them will be placed on suspension until the investigation is complete.
“The suspension of the employee will last until the end of the investigation. At that time we will have to make a judgement on what we’re going to do from there,” Brewer said. He added that while the deputy acted with negligence he does not believe that the deputy intended to allow an escape.
“I do not believe it was intentional, I believe it was an accident, but the deputy should have locked the jail down when he realized he didn’t have his keys,” said Brewer.
Brewer expressed apologies to the people of the county.
“Obviously, in a facility that is secure you shouldn’t have escapes, so my apologies,” he said.
To report any information on the whereabouts, contact the Hazard Police Department at, (606) 436-2222, or call 911.