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Ala. inmate was on the run for 11 hours before jail staff were alerted

The window Jeremy Taylor escaped through was in a video blind spot and the cameras aren’t monitored 24/7


Photo/Morgan County Sheriff’s Office Facebook

By Eric Fleischauer
The Decatur Daily

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. — An inmate charged with rape was on the run for about 11 hours before the staff at Morgan County Jail in downtown Decatur realized he was gone, according to an account by his sister who was charged with aiding in the escape and information from the Sheriff’s Office.

Jeremy Taylor, 49, of Hartselle, is back in Morgan County Jail after being extradited from Franklin County, Tennessee, where he was captured at about 1 a.m. Monday. Taylor escaped around midnight Saturday, investigators now believe, and jail staff realized he was missing about 11 a.m. Sunday. In addition to charges of rape, burglary, kidnapping and sodomy related to alleged offenses in 2020, he now faces a second-degree escape charge. He is being held without bond.

Taylor’s sister, Jodie Ann Kilpatric, 51, of Hartselle, was charged Tuesday with first-degree facilitating an escape and was released the same day on $2,500 bond.

Sheriff Ron Puckett this week said jail staff first discovered Taylor was not in his cell during a pill call, when medical personnel distributing medications to inmates discovered Taylor was not there. In an affidavit filed in Morgan County District Court in connection with the charges against Kilpatric, Investigator Erica Delgado said Taylor’s absence was first discovered at about 11 a.m. Sunday.

Delgado said investigators contacted Kilpatric on Monday after learning she may have assisted her brother in the escape.

Kilpatric said that at 1:30 a.m. or 2 a.m. on Sunday — at least nine hours before jail staff realized Taylor was missing — she was at her Hartselle residence “when she saw headlights in her driveway,” according to the affidavit. “Jodie advised she opened her front door and saw Jeremy Taylor on her front porch wearing multicolored shorts and a maroon-colored hoodie and was possibly carrying a small black bag.”

Kilpatric’s residence is about a 20-minute drive from the jail.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mike Swafford on Wednesday said Taylor’s cell was on the second floor of the jail but sometime Saturday, shortly before midnight, “he was able to sneak down and get into somebody else’s bunk and do whatever he did to get out.”

The first-floor cell he entered housed several other inmates. Swafford said Taylor got into the top bunk of a bed located next to a window at head height and apparently was able to leverage himself with the bolted-down bunk to kick out the window. Bunk beds have since been moved so they are not so close to the windows.

None of the other inmates in the cell alerted jail staff of the escape.

“The folks that were in there either knew what he was doing or just went to the cell next door and just ignored him. They didn’t help him, but they didn’t say, ‘Hey, he’s breaking out,’” Swafford said. “That’s just the way it goes. For them, sadly, sometimes stepping up and doing the right thing can have consequences for them. As far as the law is concerned, as long as they didn’t actively assist, there’s no consequence for them.”

[EARLIER: Photo: Ala. inmate back in custody after escaping jail by crawling out window]

While video monitors cover most of the pod, Swafford said about two-thirds of the window through which Taylor escaped was in a video blind spot.

“Cameras aren’t monitored 100% of the time,” Swafford said. “The cameras really come in handy afterward.”

Based on statements by the other inmates and the available video recordings, however, Swafford said it appears Taylor left the building at about midnight Saturday.

If proper procedures had been followed, Swafford said, jail staff would have been alerted to Taylor’s absence early Sunday morning.

“He should have been noticed at 4 a.m. when breakfast was served, but somebody implied that he didn’t want breakfast that day and the corrections officer didn’t follow procedure and see that he was there,” Swafford said. “That’s when it should have been caught. Even though we’re serving breakfast, we should visually see each person there whether they take a tray or not. That part was missed.”

Swafford said disciplinary action against jail staff will likely be coming, but the severity of that discipline has not been determined.

Swafford said Taylor got out through a window that faces the Committee on Church Cooperation building, on the south side of the jail.

Not clear from Kilpatric’s statement is who transported Taylor to Hartselle.

“Jodie advised that the vehicle that dropped off Taylor was a white van but did not know who was driving the van,” Delgado wrote.

Swafford said the Sheriff’s Office is investigating the issue of who drove the van.

“They’re still working on that and another person possibly involved. There are other arrests that could come from it,” he said. “I can’t say we haven’t identified them, but we know they exist and are processing what we’re going to be able to do with them.”

Kilpatric said Taylor was wearing shorts and a hoodie, not an inmate jumpsuit, when he arrived at her house. Swafford said investigators believe he found the clothes in a garbage bin near the jail.

According to the affidavit, Taylor told Kilpatric that “he needed help and needed her to drive him to Huntland, Tennessee,” where a distant cousin owns property.

Kilpatric told Delgado that she and Taylor then borrowed a 2011 blue Ford Fusion from Kilpatric’s daughter and drove to Huntland.

“Jodie and Taylor made contact with (the cousin), who agreed that he could stay there and that he would be safe. Jodie advised that she gave Taylor $160 in cash,” Delgado wrote.

It was here, at least 24 hours after his escape, that Taylor was captured by Franklin County, Tennessee, deputies.

“Our deputies received a tip that Taylor was camping alongside Robinson Creek (Road). They were able to surround the tent and took Taylor into custody without incident,” said Sgt. Samuel Davidson of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, investigators and U.S. marshals interviewed more than 20 people after discovering Taylor’s escape and concluded he was likely in Huntland.

Swafford said investigators were not sure where or how Taylor scaled the perimeter fence after exiting the jail building, but additional razor wire was being installed Wednesday at the most likely spots. He said investigators were hoping Taylor would detail for them how he escaped.

Swafford said the other windows in the jail have been examined.

“Really nothing has to be done to them other than not have a bed right under them,” he said. “The windows are head high. You can push with your hands, but obviously it takes more force than that.”

The escape-related charges against Taylor and Kilpatric are both Class C felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Taylor was on probation after pleading guilty to two counts of breaking and entering a vehicle and one of third-degree burglary when, in October 2020, he allegedly broke into a 62-year-old woman’s house in Hartselle and raped her. His probation was revoked after his arrest and he was returned to prison to serve the remainder of an eight-year sentence. He was transported to Morgan County Jail from Bibb Correctional Facility in September 2021 so that he would be available for proceedings on the rape charge.

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