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Texas wheelchair escapee recaptured


Arcade Joseph Comeaux

A Texas inmate who escaped last week -- on foot even though he was thought to need a wheelchair -- has been recaptured, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a posting on its Web site.

Arcade Comeaux Jr., 49, was serving three life sentences when he was being transferred between prisons by two armed guards last week.

He produced a weapon and fired on the two correctional officers, took them hostage and forced them to drive to Baytown, Texas, where he handcuffed the officers together in the back of the van, took their weapons and one of their uniforms and ran away, officials said.

U.S. Marshals Service Supervisory Deputy Marco Villarreal said a news conference will be held Monday at 1 p.m.

Comeaux, who was on the U.S. Marshals’ list of 15 most-wanted fugitives, was serving time for aggravated sexual assault and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

During the transfer on November 30, the 6-foot, 200-pound man was shackled and in a wheelchair, which he had said was needed for mobility, according to Michelle Lyons, director of public information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville.

About 9 a.m., some 45 minutes into the trip, as they were driving through Conroe, 40 minutes north of Houston, the prisoner pulled out a pistol and ordered the guards to drive south to Baytown, east of Houston.

He fired once, but hit no one, officials said.

Law enforcement officers found the unharmed officers an hour later.

Comeaux was being transferred so he could be near John Sealy Hospital in Galveston for treatment of the supposed paralysis he had suffered during a reported stroke, officials said.

At least $16,000 in reward money had been offered for information leading to his rearrest and a task force of more than 100 investigators was searching for him, focusing on the Houston area, where he grew up and has family.

Comeaux’s criminal record dates back more than three decades. In 1979, he received three 10-year sentences for rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child, and burglary of a building with the intent to commit theft, all in Harris County.

He was released on mandatory supervision in 1983, but he was returned to prison in 1984 after being convicted of indecency with a child and sentenced to 20 years.

In June 1991, he was released on mandatory supervision but returned as a violator four months later. Paroled in December 1993, he was returned as a parole violator a year later. In February 1996, he was again paroled, but was returned to prison in June 1998 with a life sentence for aggravated sexual assault.

Though he had been in prison ever since, his criminal record didn’t end. In July 1999, he used his wheelchair to pin his wife against a wall during a contact visit and stabbed her 17 times with a homemade knife, said John Moriarty, inspector general of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He also stabbed another prison visitor who tried to intervene; both victims survived.

For that, Comeaux was convicted on two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and received two additional life sentences.

His escape led the legislator whose committee oversees Texas’ criminal justice system to call for a shakeup of the prison system.

“We just can’t have security breaches of this nature,” said Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston who is chairman of the state Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee.

Moriarty said such lapses are highly unusual in the state’s penal system. “We have no open gun investigations other than this one,” he said. “The last one was several years ago.”

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