(AP) — State police agencies and the U.S. Marshals Service joined Mississippi authorities on Thursday in their ongoing search for an escaped inmate facing capital murder charges in the 2015 rape and slaying of a 69-year-old woman.
Rafael McCloud, 34, escaped from the Warren County Jail early Wednesday using a homemade shank to briefly take a jail employee hostage and force him to give up his keys, radio, pants and jacket, said Sheriff Martin Pace. Deputies recovered the radio and keys on the jail grounds, Pace said.
McCloud was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, the guard’s green pants and a black jacket.
Pace said officers found the pants about 3 a.m. Thursday several blocks from the jail.
He said officers don’t know what McCloud is wearing or whether he might have shaved or otherwise altered his appearance.
“We operate and continue to operate under the presumption that he is still here (in the area), until we receive verification that he is not.”
McCloud said officers searched through the night and that “anyone who has been to visit or anyone who is associated with Rafael McCloud is getting a visit.”
Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong called McCloud extremely dangerous.
“We have expanded our search area to the northeast part of the city,” Armstrong said. “The area has a large number of abandoned homes and businesses, good hiding places for McCloud.”
Armstrong said police received a tip Wednesday night that they are working on. He would not elaborate.
He said more than two dozen officers were searching the area Wednesday but a lesser number was looking Thursday.
“Most people in Vicksburg know McCloud is a fugitive and anyone harboring him will be arrested and prosecuted,” Armstrong said.
McCloud, who had been in the county jail since his arrest June 29, was indicted on multiples counts involving Sharen Wilson’s death in January. Her body was found behind an abandoned hospital. McCloud could face the death penalty if convicted.
McCloud has prior felony convictions for auto burglary, grand larceny and armed robbery, according to court records.
Pace said the sheriff’s office is also investigating the jail escape. He said that some of it was captured on video, but that he would not publicly release the recording. He said the officer whom McCloud held at knifepoint with a homemade shank is on paid leave, which he described as a routine measure. Warren County’s century-old jail is in downtown Vicksburg with no fence between the building and the street.
Pace said that in addition to Vicksburg police officers and Warren County sheriff’s deputies, officers from the Department of Public Safety, game wardens from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and members of the U.S. Marshal’s fugitive task force are participating.
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