Prison escapee surrenders after chat with Angola warden

He calls Angola warden, wanting to be transferred

Joshua Kelly
Joshua Kelly

Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain said he had never heard of an inmate pulling off a daring jailbreak just to get out of one prison and into another, but that’s exactly what a New Orleans offender serving time for armed robbery attempted early Friday.

Cain said he received a call around 12:40 a.m. at his residence from a state Department of Public Safety and Corrections control center about a prison break at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel.

“I was thinking I’m about to talk to the warden about the escape,” Cain said, “and it’s the inmate that was calling me.”

Joshua Kelly, 38, the escapee, has been serving a 65-year prison term for several Orleans Parish armed robbery convictions, according to a Corrections Department news release.

Kelly escaped from Hunt around midnight while he was working with a group of other inmates on a night cleaning crew, the news release says.

Kelly allegedly overpowered one of the prison’s correctional officers/emergency medical technicians and then used the officer’s uniform jacket to disguise himself while he got into one of Hunt’s ambulances and drove it away from the prison, the release stated.

No serious injuries were reported during Kelly’s escape attempt, according to the news release.

“He called me and said he wanted to give himself up to me,” Cain said Friday afternoon. “He said he wanted to come back to Angola because he feared for his life at Hunt.”

Cain was able to speak directly with the fugitive after control center personnel electronically linked the phones the inmate and warden were using.

After Kelly’s call, Cain said, he picked up Public Safety and Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. Over the phone, Cain and LeBlanc persuaded Kelly to pull over to the side of the road, park the ambulance, and surrender to pursuing law enforcement officers.

“I guess he was just trying to cut his losses and give up,” Cain said.

Authorities arrested Kelly without incident about 2:30 a.m. Friday at the intersection La. 73 and La. 75 in Ascension Parish, according to the news release.

Authorities booked Kelly as a fugitive and returned him to Hunt Correctional Center, Corrections Department spokeswoman Pam Laborde said in an email Friday.

Cain said that Kelly, after spending six years at Angola, had been transferred to Hunt Correctional Center about six months ago to serve out the remainder of his term.

“He was a good inmate; very calm and soft-spoken,” Cain said.

Public Safety and Corrections authorities immediately opened an investigation into Kelly’s escape, which officials said is the first from Hunt Correctional Center since 2005.

“There are still unanswered questions regarding the escape that will be revealed once our investigation is complete,” LeBlanc said in the news release. “As per department policy, we will do a thorough review of the incident to determine exactly how this happened and take appropriate measures as warranted.”