Skip to main content

Accused killers nabbed day after escaping through ceiling of Missouri jail

By Greg Botelho and Carma Hassan, CNN
updated 6:34 PM EDT, Tue March 12, 2013
Kade Reaves Stringfellow, left, Rodney Joe Green, center, Matthew Brandon Cook, right.
Kade Reaves Stringfellow, left, Rodney Joe Green, center, Matthew Brandon Cook, right.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: One inmate feared he'd be shot by residents, a local sheriff says
  • 2 accused murderers and 1 other escape from a southeastern Missouri jail
  • They get out through a ceiling in a shower stall out of sight of cameras, guards
  • They were found hiding in a vehicle in a salvage yard, a state trooper says

(CNN) -- Five, maybe 10 minutes was all it took.

Shortly before midnight Monday, three inmates at the Butler County, Missouri, jail -- two of them accused killers -- slipped into a shower stall, through a shifted ceiling tile and eventually outside to the rural Ozark Foothills region of southeast Missouri.

"There are some things that you have to scratch your head about in the (jail's) design and construction," Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs said. "And there's also the (fact there) are two people watching 95 inmates."

The men -- Joe Green, jailed on numerous assault charges, as well as accused killers Matthew Brandon Cook and Kade Reaves Stringfellow -- remained at large until Tuesday afternoon.

Around 3:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET), they were found hiding in a vehicle in a salvage yard about five miles east of Poplar Bluff, said Trooper Clark Parrott of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Video later showed all three men being taken out of police cars and led back into the jail.

"It's been a very long night and a very long day," Dobbs told reporters after the men's capture.

The part of the shower stall where the men escaped was out of sight of cameras, as well as the two guards, according to the sheriff. He noted that there wasn't any noise to indicate anything was awry.

The inmates crawled up through about a 10-inch by 10-inch hole above the ductwork, before eventually making their way outside -- an escape made easier because the walls "didn't extend completely up to the concrete ceiling," Dobbs said.

"They were in and out in what we feel like was a relatively short amount of time," he said.

Numerous law enforcement agencies -- from as far away as Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as helicopters from the Missouri Highway Patrol -- assisted in the search for the three men.

The inmates traveled together alongside a flat, exposed and elevated railroad track, Dobbs said, pointing to an analysis of their tracks and preliminary interviews with the men. They were wearing bright orange jumpsuits.

The fact they were so visible, especially in broad daylight and in an area where many citizens own guns, appeared to weigh on the three men's minds, Dobbs said.

" 'If I'd have been a citizen, I'd have shot me, too,' " one of the escapees said, according to Dobbs. "You're down in southeast Missouri, the gun belt, and people will protect themselves."

A tracking dog eventually led authorities to the salvage yard in a rural part of Butler County. The sheriff said he still believes the inmates intended to leave the area, but a combination of factors -- including the fact they were exposed and a large law enforcement team looking for them -- contributed to their capture.

"Luck was on our side this time, as well as a lot of good teamwork," Dobbs said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT