Pubdate: Fri, 18 Nov 2005
Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Copyright: 2005 The Des Moines Register.
Author: Kevin Dobbs, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Both escapees from the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison have 
now been captured.

Robert Joseph Legendre, 27, has been captured this morning in 
southern Missouri, Iowa officials said.

Legendre was apprehended in Steele, Mo., said Fred Scaletta, an Iowa 
prisons spokesman.

Pemiscott County, Mo., Sheriff's Department investigator Ryan Holder 
said his office received a call from a neighboring county of a stolen 
pickup truck traveling south on Interstate 55.

Sheriff's officials said they received a report that the stolen 
truck, a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado, was parked at a truck stop in Steele.

Steele Police Chief Mike Tomlinson arrived at the truck stop, 
confirmed the truck was stolen and approached the vehicle where the 
suspect was sitting in the truck.

Tomlinson approached Legendre, who cooperated and gave up peacefully, 
Holder said.

He said Legendres was being held in the Pemiscott County Justice Center.

"He is in custody with officials in southern Missouri, that's all we 
know right now," said Jim Saunders, spokesman for the Iowa Department 
of Public Safety.

"They've got the right guy in custody and I'm happy," said Fred 
Scaletta said, an Iowa prisons spokesman.

On Thursday, convicted murderer Martin Moon, another escapee, was 
found asleep behind the wheel of a stolen car in southern Illinois.

Moon was returned to Iowa and was back at the Iowa State Penitentiary 
in Ft. Madison on Friday, Scaletta said.

Moon made his initial appearance Friday in a courtroom inside the prison.

Moon was charged with escape of a felon, a Class D felony. District 
Judge Joel J. Kamp set bond at $500,000 and appointed public defender 
to represent him, according to court records.

Officials say Moon waived his extradition rights and was transported 
back to Iowa Thursday night.

Gov. Tom Vilsack, meanwhile, ordered an investigation to determine 
responsibility for the security lapse that allowed Moon and Legendre 
to escape earlier this week.

Moon, who was serving a life sentence for the 1999 shooting death of 
a man in Clarke County, escaped Monday with Legendre, 27, who was 
serving life for attempted murder and kidnapping in the state of 
Nevada. Legendre was transferred to the Iowa State Penitentiary in 
December 2004.

Iowa authorities said Moon and Legendre used an improvised rope and a 
grappling hook to scale a limestone prison wall. They avoided 
detection because a nearby guard tower was unmanned as a result of 
state budget cuts, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.

The convicts escaped over the west wall of the prison, which is about 
one block from U.S. Highway 61 and about two blocks from a bridge 
over the Mississippi River into Illinois.

Police in Illinois said the two men split up shortly after the escape.

Governor Tom Vilsack said those responsible for the security lapse 
will be held accountable.

"There were a series of mistakes that were made," he said.

Vilsack was in Mount Pleasant Friday morning for an economic 
development summit, but praised law enforcement for their work 
apprehending the escapees.

"Obviously I appreciate the fact that law enforcement was diligent 
and able to put these two characters back behind bars where they 
belong," Vilsack said.

But Vilsack said the investigation into the escape will continue.

"We are gong to continue to work hard to identify every single factor 
that allowed them to escape," he said.

State Senator Gene Fraise, D-Fort Madison, was at the summit with 
Vilsack and said there will be legislative hearings to investigate 
the escape and security at the prison.

"There definitely will be discussions about that. We need those 
towers manned," Fraise said. Fraise said he's convinced the only good 
security is having the guard towers manned.

Vilsack said Thursday that "there were a series of mistakes that were 
made inside that prison relative to keeping appropriate head counts, 
monitoring circumstances and situations involving prison industries."

"There was no single reason why this escape was successful," he said. 
"I would anticipate that you will see additional training, a series 
of additional steps that should have been taken that were not taken."

When asked whether the prison was inadequately staffed or budgeted, 
as some critics in the Iowa Legislature have asserted, Vilsack said 
it's too early to attach blame.

"Finger-pointing doesn't advance this process," he said.

A state union that represents Iowa prison workers said Thursday that 
it would form a task force to review security issues at all of Iowa's 
prisons for possible recommendations to Vilsack and the Iowa Legislature.

"Front-line workers know what risks are inherent in the prison 
system," said Dan Homan, state president of the American Federation 
of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union had opposed a 
state budget plan approved in 2002 that reduced staffing in prison 
guard towers and increased spending on electronic security equipment.

Police in Chester, Ill., captured Moon, 34, Thursday in a rural area 
about 60 miles from St. Louis. Authorities said the car he was in was 
parked near Menard State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison.

When an officer knocked on the car window, Moon started the engine 
and tried to back up. He drove into a ditch, then jumped out and ran 
into a wooded area, police said. A police dog "tracked him right 
down" and found Moon in a tree, Chester Police Chief Don McKinney said.

McKinney said Moon was headed to either Tennessee or New Orleans "to 
blend into all the turmoil down there."

Hurricane and tornado damage have made conditions "so messed up down 
there, he just figured he'd mix right in," McKinney added.

The last major escape at Fort Madison occurred in 1979, when five 
inmates who hid in a large garbage container behind the prison dining 
hall were dumped off at a landfill. Four of them were quickly 
captured, and the fifth was apprehended in Oelwein after 32 hours on the loose.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.