Both escapees in custody

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 14, 2010

By Billy Davis

Batesville police said Wednesday they have solved the mystery of a four-wheeler stolen from Arkansas, and the identity of its driver and passenger, who fled from police officers during a 2 a.m.-chase Monday.

The driver and passenger are escaped convicts from Kansas, who were following railroad tracks as they traveled south to evade capture, police said.

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Batesville police, following a tip, picked up Scott Dwyer, 40, for questioning Wednesday afternoon in Courtland. He was placed into custody about 3 p.m. 

Grenada police arrested the second escapee, Wayne Purdy, 31, Thursday morning near a Wal-Mart in Grenada.

Police said Purdy had hitched a ride with a truck driver in Oakland, and the truck driver saw a Memphis TV news story Wednesday evening about the escapees. He easily recognized his bearded passenger and notified authorities.

Purdy and Dwyer had escaped Thanksgiving night from the Winfield Correctional Facility in Cowley County, Kansas. Cowley County is located in southern Kansas, where it borders the state line with Oklahoma.

After fleeing Kansas, the two escapees traveled through Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas before reaching Mississippi through Memphis, authorities said, citing an interview with Dwyer.

The escapees’ railroad route included riding the ATV over the Mississippi River, police confirmed.   

“They said they’d had a long string of luck until they got to Batesville,” said BPD Detective Paul Shivers.

The escapees had been fleeing custody for 47 days when patrolman Jon Summerville spotted the Yamaha Grizzly four-wheeler as it crossed Public Square.

A brief chase ended south of Batesville, where the escapees abandoned the ATV on the railroad tracks and fled into woods.

The Panolian reported Tuesday that the Yamaha’s vehicle identification number revealed it had been stolen from Tyronza, Arkansas, a town of 1,000 residents located in northeast Arkansas.

After Dwyer gave police a fake name Wednesday, authorities got their first break when a fingerprint identity system recognized him as an escaped convict, said BPD Detective Jeremiah Brown.

The computerized identity system is located at the Panola County sheriff’s office, where jail administrator Bobby Meek later contacted Brown to report the news.

“Bobby said, ‘Guess what. Your boy is wanted by Kansas Department of Corrections,” Brown recalled.

Dwyer was sentenced for three counts of misdemeanor theft in 2003, though his convictions – 40 of them – date back to 1986 for theft, burglary, drug possession, and a single count of escape.

Purdy’s convictions date back to 1999, when he was sentenced for felony theft. He had accumulated five burglary convictions, two arson convictions and a misdemeanor theft conviction when he was sentenced for aggravated burglary on July 10, 2009. 

Winfield Correctional Facility is considered a minimum security facility, said Roy Graber, managing editor of The Winfield Daily Courier.

Dwyer and Purdy are suspected of burglarizing homes and businesses along the railroad tracks as they traveled south, said police, citing discussions with other authorities from Arkansas and other states.

Detective Shivers said Dwyer and Purdy face five years in prison for the escape from Winfield and as many as 25 years in prison – just in Arkansas – for a multitude of break-ins and burglaries.

A winch on the ATV was likely used to yank doors to gain entry. Lashed to the four-wheeler was a cooler, blankets, cook stove, bolt cutters, siphon hose and gas cans, and clothes, among other items.

To remain hidden,  the four-wheeler had been “blacked out” – its lights had been broken and the illuminated odometer was covered with cardboard.

The four-wheeler, a 2007 model, had logged just 40 miles when it was stolen from a home in Tyronza, police said. The ATV had logged 265 miles when it came to a stop in Batesville.