St. Mary jail inmate has history of escapes

Despite knowing he was a flight risk, St. Mary Parish sheriff’s jailers did not take extra precautions to prevent the escape of Joshua Folks, a 36-year-old felon with a record of using self-mutilation to escape police custody.

On Sunday night, less than a month after his booking in Centerville on Alabama warrants of aggravated escape and theft, Folks and accused killer Christopher Horton escaped from the St. Mary Parish Law Enforcement Center.

Folks and Horton got out by climbing through the ceiling and roof before hitting the ground at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday Self-mutilation was not a factor in this latest escape.

By the time jailers noticed Folks and Horton were not in their cells it was 4:30 a.m. It was well past daylight once deputies searched the entire grounds of the facility and notified area schools, other police and the media.

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Traci Landry would not cite specifics on jail security, but said steps were taken to prevent other prisoners from using the method and route Folks and Horton used.

“It’s a secure jail,” Landry said Wednesday.

Sheriff’s officials are remaining mum about the case, Landry said, because it remains an active investigation.

A request to interview St. Mary Sheriff Mark Hebert on the escape went unanswered Wednesday.

Folks was arrested Jan. 8 on an old Iberia Parish arrest warrant alleging theft of more than $500. At the time, officials noticed he also was wanted in Alabama for theft and aggravated escape.

Folks escaped authorities in Alabama by getting himself transferred from the Clarke County Jail to a mental hospital for prisoners in Tuscaloosa, Ala., which has guards but is not as secure as a jail, Clarke County District Attorney Spencer Walker said.

Clarke County jailers transferred Folks to the mental ward after he chewed up the skin on a portion of his body, Walker said.

“It’s my understanding that he mutilates himself severely in order to get removed from the jail and taken to a mental facility,” Walker said.

After Folks escaped from the mental hospital in Tuscaloosa, he fled to Louisiana. Walker did not say when the escape from the mental hospital occurred.

Landry, of the St. Mary Sheriff’s Office, said officials would not release copies of the St. Mary probable cause affidavits that were used to issue warrants for the arrests of Folks and Horton. The affidavits usually contain details on the alleged crime.

Landry also said St. Mary Parish officials would not say if investigators believed Folks and Horton received help after their escape.

The searches ended before lunch Tuesday, when both were captured in Lafayette near a railroad overpass on North University Avenue.

According to information in a probable cause affidavit from Lafayette Parish, Folks and Horton had changed their clothes sometime after they escaped; they were not dressed in the recognizable green prison outfits of St. Mary Parish.

Horton is accused of killing his brother Adam Horton on Sept. 3, 2007, which was Labor Day. He was scheduled for an April 3 pretrial hearing where his attorney, Bob Fuhrer, will try to convince a judge to throw out statements Horton made to police in the days after his brother’s stabbing death.

Prosecutor Anthony Saleme said Horton’s trial, on charges of second-degree murder and arson, is slated for mid-April.

After their escapes, Folks and Horton face more legal trouble: Both face charges of simple escape and criminal damage to property.