3 Yell Co. escapees captured; bond set at $1M each

    6:44 PM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
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    • Photo: Yell Co. Sheriff's Dept.
    • Bret Cooksey. Photo: Yell Co. Sheriff's Dept.
    • Seth Chowning. Photo: Yell Co. Sheriff's Dept.
    • Jacqueline Stobaugh. Photo: Yell Co. Sheriff's Dept.

    DARDANELLE, Ark. (KTHV) -- Three inmates escaped the Yell County jail Sunday.

    Authorities had been searching for Bret Cooksey, Seth Chowning and Jacqueline Stobaugh after the two men allegedly attacked a jailer to get the keys and let Stobaugh of her cell.

    Yell County Sheriff Bill Gilkey says the trio fled to the Arkansas River bank just a few blocks from the jail and hid out in the woods until dark. Deputies found the two men in a vacant house two blocks from the jail. The female was hiding out across the street in an outhouse. Sheriff Gilkey says the three may have been missing for at least half an hour before authorities discovered their disappearance.

    Authorities say both Chowning and Stobaugh were being held on battery charges, while Cooksey was in for robbery.Monday, the three attended a bond hearing where a $1 million bond was set for each of them.  Since the escape, Sheriff Gilkey has closed the Dardanelle facility moving the remaining four inmates to surrounding facilities until the jail is fully staffed.

    Yell County Sheriff Bill Gilkey is anticipating the filing of formal charges against the trio by Prosecuting Attorney Tom Tatum, II, which could include: Battery in the 2nd Degree, Escape, Kidnapping, Theft of Property, Terroristic Threatening, and Impairing the Operation of a Vital Public Facility.

    They have a Pretrial Date of May 9, 2013 at 9 a.m. in Yell County Circuit Court in Dardanelle before Judge Jerry Don Ramey.

    According to Sheriff Gilkey, he has been asking for more staff and jail repairs for the past six years.  He told THV 11 that had the jail been staffed properly, this would not have happened.

    "We made a presentation to the quorum court in 2007 after a jail inspection that the Dardanelle facility was understaffed. They've been reminded of that repeatedly. They've ignored the request," said Gilkey. "It's very frustrating. It's something that we deal with on a daily basis because we are given a limited budget to work with."

    County Judge Mark Thone says he is aware of the need for extra staff at the jail and new facilities. The county has estimated $6 million to $8 million will be needed to build a new jail and staff it properly, money that will have to come from a new sales tax. He expects the quorom court to bring up the issue at their next meeting, Monday April 8th.

    As for the jailer attacked, Sheriff Gilkey said he suffered minor bumps and bruises and is recovering at home.

    "We are proud of the job he done. He done everything that he could humanly possible and we are certainly mostly ecstatic with the fact that he wasn't hurt any worse than he was," said Gilkey.

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