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Officials take blame for killer's escape

Fugitive still at large after walking out of jail in street clothes

Charles Victor Thompson changed into street clothes and showed guards state employee identification.


Houston (Texas)
Capital Punishment
Crime, Law and Justice

(CNN) -- Officials at a Houston jail took responsibility Friday for the escape of a convicted murderer who had recently been sentenced to die, a sheriff's department spokesman said Friday.

Charles Victor Thompson, 35, escaped Thursday afternoon from the Harris County Jail after changing into civilian clothes and talking his way past guards.

"There were a number of points where this could have been prevented," Lt. John Martin told reporters. "In this incident, there were a series of lapses. The one thing that is evident about this incident is that it is 100 percent human error and absolutely could have been avoided."

Thompson, 35, was convicted of capital murder in April 1999 in the shooting deaths of his former girlfriend, Dennise Hayslip, and her friend Darren Cain, 30.

Police have received a number of significant leads into Thompson's whereabouts, Martin said. Several agencies were searching for him, including the U.S. Marshals Service and the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force.

The U.S. Marshals Service announced Friday night a $10,000 reward for information leading to Thompson's capture.

Thompson, who was resentenced to death October 28, escaped after meet with an attorney. Such meetings take place in a locked booth that has a Plexiglas divider between inmate and attorney. No deputy is present so that the client-attorney privilege is maintained.

Thompson slipped out of his handcuffs, changed from his orange jumpsuit into street clothes and walked away after showing guards identification indicating he worked in the state attorney general's office.

Thompson apparently had concealed the clothes and changed after the lawyer -- who was not his attorney of record -- left, Martin said. Authorities don't know how Thompson got out of the room, which had been locked.

Thompson went to a control center where he told a guard he was conducting an investigation for the state and said he didn't have a security badge because he had entered the jail through an adjoining building, Martin said.

The jail has surveillance cameras but no video recorders, Martin said. It isn't known whether Thompson escaped in a vehicle or on foot.

After the escape, authorities accounted for all vehicles belonging to Thompson's family, Martin said, but it took some time to find a truck belonging to Thompson's brother. It was unclear if the truck was used in the escape.

When he was last seen, Thompson was wearing khaki pants, a dark blue shirt and white tennis shoes.

"We will be looking at our security procedures, we will be determining what procedures simply were not followed and we will also be attempting to determine whether we need to implement stronger procedures or additional security procedures," Martin said.

Chief Deputy Danny Billingsley said he was on duty when the escape occurred.

"As a department we're embarrassed about this," he said. "... I feel personally responsible because I was the ranking person on duty when this happened."

The families of the victims were notified immediately after the escape.

Hayslip's mother, Wynona Donaghy of Tomball, Texas, told reporters she had been advised to go into hiding.

"[I'm] frightened, and hopefully not for long is he out, because he is a threat not only to himself but to anybody around him," she said. "I believe he'd come after anybody. He's capable."

Donaghy said she wanted to appear before reporters because she is convinced someone helped Thompson escape. "They don't know how dangerous he is," she said.

Thompson's resentencing was ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which had upheld his conviction.

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