Three Escapees, Copter Pilot Arrested in Car

From Times Wire Services

Four fugitives sought in a daring helicopter escape from a South Carolina prison were arrested early today as they slept at a highway rest stop in southern Georgia, ending a three-day, nationwide manhunt, authorities said.

The three prison escapees and a woman who helped them break out were captured without incident about 3:30 a.m. at a rest area on Interstate 95 near the Georgia-Florida border, said Camden County Sheriff W. E. Smith.

The four, who had vowed they wouldn't be taken alive, were identified as Joyce Bailey Mattox, 40, accused of hijacking a helicopter and forcing its pilot to land at Perry Correctional Institution near Pelzer, S.C.; Jesse Glenn Smith, 36, of Easley, S.C.; William Ballew, 42, of Greenville, S.C.; and convicted murderer James Rodney Leonard, 20, also of Greenville.

Guard Wounded

A guard was wounded in a shootout during Thursday's daring escape.

Mattox reportedly is the girlfriend of Jesse Smith, the romance blooming while he was in prison.

A deputy making a patrol stop at a welcome center noticed a car that a computer check showed was wanted in the escape, Sheriff Smith said.

"All four of them were in the car asleep," said Trooper J. M. Cunningham, who spotted the car. "They had a good awakening."

Deputies summoned to the rest area surrounded the car, and the occupants were ordered out, he said. The four surrendered, and deputies recovered the group's weapons--a .32-caliber pistol and some knives, the sheriff said.

Air Piracy Charge

The four were taken to the Camden County jail, where they were held under heavy guard. They were charged with air piracy, a federal offense, and were turned over to FBI agents and U.S. marshals about 11:30 a.m., said Capt. Michael McCage of the county sheriff's department.

They were to be taken to Savannah for a hearing before a U.S. magistrate later today, said FBI spokesman Joel Dean.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World