JACKSON — A state inmate looking at nearly 29 more years in prison spent 12 hours looking for a way out of the dense woods, deep ravines and soggy creek bottoms near Dixon Correctional Institute.
An intense manhunt put him back in prison early Wednesday.
Jeremiah Benoit, 33, climbed over a razor wire-topped gate behind a kitchen facility about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
He eluded bloodhounds and scores of correctional officers and sheriff’s deputies until he was spotted crossing a creek a short distance south of the prison about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
DCI Assistant Warden Gary Shotwell said the chase team’s pursuit pushed Benoit toward La. 68 near the Asphodel antebellum home and he was spotted crossing the highway.
Two Louisiana State Penitentiary officials, assisting in the manhunt, saw the escapee running across a field behind Asphodel Baptist Church and caught him without incident.
Benoit was booked with simple escape at the East Feliciana Parish Jail in Clinton, and Shotwell said the inmate had escaped from another facility before he arrived at DCI.
Benoit, who is from the Lake Charles area, is serving sentences for second-degree kidnapping, aggravated burglary and escape.
His discharge date before he fled was March 2040, Shotwell said.
“He took advantage of our shift change,” Shotwell said, adding Benoit was able to scale the gate relatively quickly despite the razor wire.
The gate, at the rear of the prison, is not near a manned guard tower but is monitored with a camera.
Shotwell said the escape would cause prison officials to re-evaluate whether certain areas of the compound and outer perimeter have weak spots.
Benoit fled into the woods between the prison and Thompson Creek, the boundary between East and West Feliciana parishes.
Deputies from the two parishes, Jackson and other police agencies, Angola and Hunt Correctional Center chase teams, State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service also assisted in the manhunt.
The escapee discarded the white jumpsuit he was wearing as a kitchen orderly soon after he entered the woods and continued his flight wearing cutoff jeans and a T-shirt, Shotwell said.
The escape prompted DCI’s first use of an emergency notification system implemented at all but two state prisons in March.
Shotwell said the automatic notification system’s first call covered the area where prison officials thought he was or would be heading.
The initial call went to about 350 residents from U.S. 61 to La. 10 and from La. 68 to Thompson Creek, he said.
The system can send email, text and telephone messages.
Persons living near state prisons may sign up for the notification list by visiting the Department of Corrections website at http://www.doc.la.gov.
The information requested on the registration form will not be shared, loaned or given to others, Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc said in a news release announcing the service.
Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said Mississippi residents who live near Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola also may register for emergency notices.