Brown County Jail inmate Mark Edward Rhoads was a dependable trusty who’d earned the privilege of working outside under minimal supervision, sheriff’s officials said.
Late Sunday afternoon, Rhoads, 43, of Geronimo, Okla., took off after completing his duties of taking out trash and lowering the two flags outside the Law Enforcement Center, Sheriff Bobby Grubbs said.
Rhoads, who had been jailed for about eight months on burglary and larceny charges, remained at large Monday. He was classified as a “medium” risk inmate and does not have a history of violence, but any escapee should be considered dangerous, sheriff’s officials said.
“We will find him,” Grubbs said Monday after conferring with other sheriff’s officials about search strategies.
It appears Rhoads simply walked away after leaving the two flags on a loading dock outside the jail’s rear entrance, and investigators were trying to determine Monday if he had help or caught a ride, Grubbs said.
Rhoads was last seen at 5:45 p.m., Grubbs said, adding that it does not appear any of the jail’s policies and procedures had been violated.
“At this point we don’t have a lot to go on,” Grubbs said. “He fulfilled his duties before he left — except for coming back. I don’t have any doubts we’re going to get him back — it’s just a question of when.”
Grubbs said investigators began an immediate search for Rhoads after he disappeared. A tracking dog owned by a jailer tracked Rhoads to an alley adjacent to the Law Enforcement Center but the scent disappeared, Grubbs said.
Investigators were working to develop leads Monday and were following “a possible lead in Coleman that may or may not turn into anything,” Grubbs said.
Investigators were trying to determine if he had ties to Brown County and had not learned of any. Investigators were also investigating possible leads that he was trying to get to Odessa, where his wife lives, or to the Lawton, Okla. area, Grubbs said.
Sheriff’s officials have notified agencies across Texas and Oklahoma of Rhoads’ escape, and were checking with agencies Monday morning for reports on vehicle thefts. None were reported, Grubbs said.
Sheriff’s officials searched the area near the Law Enforcement Center Monday to see if Rhoads had discarded his jail-issued clothing, which was either black and white or orange and white, Grubbs said.
Although Rhoads does not have a history of violence, any escapee should be considered dangerous “because of his desperation to flee the area,” sheriff’s Capt. Tony Aaron said.
Rhoads had been in the Brown County Jail for about eight months and had been a trusty for about three months, Grubbs said.
Rhoads was initially booked into the Brown County Jail in October 2008 on charges of burglary of a building and burglary of a habitation. He was accused of break-ins at Roberts and Petty and at a home on County Road 550, authorities said earlier.
Those cases are pending in 35th District Court.
He was also being held on an Odessa burglary charge and a grand larceny charge in Oklahoma, and has a history of being accused of breaking into and stealing vehicles, Grubbs said.
Rhoads now faces an escape charge, the sheriff said.
The jail has 20 to 22 trusties — inmates who are allowed to move about and perform work including food service, janitorial, laundry and mowing, Grubbs said.
Inmates who aren’t considered for trusty duty include sex offenders and inmates with a history of violence or other major offenses. When an inmate is selected as a trusty, his background and qualifications will determine whether he works inside or outside the Law Enforcement Center and the level of supervision he has, Grubbs said. Some work on road crews.
He said trusties are essential to the operation of the Law Enforcement Center.
“We know it’s a calculated risk,” Grubbs said. “We try to keep it as minimal as we can. But still, you never know what’s going trough the inmates’ mind.”