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Nebraska police on Thursday surround a minivan containing three men who escaped from Branchville Correctional Facility on March 20. Photo Courtesy of the Nebraska State Patrol

Escapees captured in Nebraska

Police led on 64-mile, high-speed chase

April 01, 2009
Three inmates, including one arrested last year in Harrison County, who escaped from Branchville Correctional Facility in northeastern Perry County Friday, March 20, were captured in Nebraska Thursday, after leading police on a 64-mile chase with speeds up to 105 miles per hour.

The three men — Bobby Cockerell, Christopher Marshall and Jerry Sargent — are believed to have stolen a truck in St. Croix, about five miles north of the prison, early Sunday morning, March 22. The truck was found later that day abandoned on Interstate 71 in Kentucky about 30 miles south of Cincinnati.

The trio are then believed to have broken into a Carroll County, Ky., home and assaulted and bound three men before stealing cash, numerous weapons, including a handgun and rifle, and a 1998 Ford Ranger.

According to a press release from the Nebraska State Patrol, law enforcement agencies in west-central Nebraska on Thursday were advised to be on the lookout for the three fugitives. Authorities had been alerted by the U.S. Marshal's Service that the suspects may be in the region.

Sometime that morning, the suspects are believed to have stopped at a filling station in Thedford to have their vehicle repaired. That evening, about six o'clock local time, the mechanic contacted the Thomas County Sheriff's Depart-ment to let officials know he recognized the three suspects from an Internet photo and that the men were in a dark green minivan.

About an hour earlier, the Hooker County Sheriff's Department was contacted by a waitress at a restaurant in Mullen who recognized the three men from news reports. The men, the waitress said, had been at the restaurant earlier in the day.

The Hooker County Sheriff located the vehicle at a local motel and later observed two of the men return to the restaurant. Moments later, police said, the men left the restaurant and returned to the motel. The third man got into the vehicle with the other two and they proceeded westbound on Nebraska Highway 2 from Mullen. A Hooker County deputy sheriff followed the vehicle until he was joined by Nebraska state troopers.

Between Whitman and Hyannis, the troopers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the vehicle accelerated and fled west on Highway 2 at speeds up to 105 miles per hour. The men were able to evade police by dodging tire deflators and road blocks.

Just east of Alliance, Box Butte County deputies and a Hemingford police officer successfully deployed a tire deflator. The men continued west into Alliance but at a drastically reduced speed.

After entering Alliance, the minivan continued to slow down as it turned onto a side street. As the vehicle slowed to nearly a stop, the three suspects fled. Two of the men were arrested by state troopers after a short foot pursuit. The third man, who was armed with a semi-automatic handgun, fled down an alley and accosted a couple in a pickup truck.

He got into the right side of the pickup and attempted to car-jack the vehicle. Within seconds, an officer from the Alliance Police Department removed the driver from the vehicle, protecting him from the would-be car-jacker, and took the third suspect into custody without further incident.

Police found numerous rifles and hand guns, nearly $6,000 in cash and several other items taken in the Kentucky burglary in the minivan.

The three men were housed in the Box Butte County Jail in Alliance as they awaited transfer of custody to the U.S. Marshal's Service.

Marshall and Sargent had been assigned to the welding shop at Branchville and are believed to have assaulted a maintenance worker, who was airlifted to University Hospital in Louisville. Joined by Cockerell, the men are believed to have stolen a pair of pliers to cut the prison's fence.

At the time of the escape, Cockerell, 31, from Jeffersonville, was serving a 20-year sentence for burglary; Marshall, 49, from Monon, was serving a 50-year sentence for dealing cocaine; and Sargent, 59, from Dry Ridge, Ky., was serving a 50-year sentence for robbery and criminal confinement.

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