Michael Edward Burden, of 519 East Gordon Farm Road in Rossville, now faces felony escape and criminal damage to government property charges in addition to his original misdemeanor traffic violation charges, the sheriff said.
Catoosa authorities continue to search for Robert Gene Lowe, 33, of Round Pond Road in LaFayette, Burden’s accomplice in the Oct. 6 escape.
Summers said earlier on Friday that both men had been spotted in the LaFayette area but had eluded authorities.
“We’ve checked several houses and missed them because they’ve been moving around,” he said, adding Walker County authorities on Oct. 10 arrested one person on charges of harboring the fugitives.
Faulty locks at the new $8.9 million jail were blamed for the pair’s escape, Summers said.
The men escaped about 11 p.m. by manipulating a faulty lock in the door leading to their cellblock’s plumbing works, the sheriff said.
After gaining access to the crawl space around the pipes, the men reached the roof by breaking through a wall that was not reinforced according to the building’s approved plans, Summers said.
They escaped via a lightning rod cable connected to the ground and apparently stole a pickup from Babb Construction Co. in Ringgold, abandoning the vehicle at LaFayette High School about one mile from where Lowe resides, Summers said.
At the time of their escape, Burden and Lowe were each being held in the facility’s minimum-security area for misdemeanor traffic offenses.
The men, discovered sleeping in a LaFayette barn on the morning after their escape, now face additional felony escape charges, Summers said. Both men — clothed in blue jeans and T-shirts — left on foot when confronted by the barn’s owner.
An investigation at the jail following the escape turned up evidence of flawed locking mechanisms and installations in several areas of the new jail, Summers said.
“Not only did we find that the lock on this door was installed improperly but three other plumbing chase doors were also determined to be a security risk as well,” he said.
“It’s disappointing that something like this occurred after only occupying the facility one month,” the sheriff said. “But at the same time, at least if it was going to happen, at least it happened in a way that it was minor offenders that aren’t really a risk to the community, and we can correct the problem to keep it from happening in the future.”
Summers met last week with the facility’s architects, construction management company and the company that installed the locks to correct the problem and also look at additional safeguards to prevent similar incidents from occurring, he said. The locks were repaired last week, and installation of additional steel-enforced partitions in the area where the men escaped will be completed by the end of this week, he said.
A Jonesboro, Ga.-based private security company on Friday was in the process of reevaluating the jail, including last week’s repairs, at the sheriff’s request.
“I’m comfortable with the changes that have been made, and that the facility’s integrity will be restored with the modifications and corrections that we’re making,” Summers said. “But because of that one incident, we felt that we may as well have all of the work inspected by an outside source and make sure that everything is OK.