LAPORTE – A battle is brewing and neither side is backing down. LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer is upset because he wasn't immediately contacted after two community corrections inmates escaped last month, but the community corrections center says it followed protocol.
It all started when inmates Aaron Baxter and Ryan Smith threw a metal foot locker through the window of the second story of their minimum security corrections facility around 7 on a Thursday evening last month.
Sheriff Mollenhauer said he read an article in the local newspaper two days later about a young man by the name of Ryan Smith found dead in a Michigan City apartment. But it wasn’t until the following Monday when the sheriff read another article saying Smith had escaped from the county’s community corrections facility with another inmate.
“I checked with my chief deputy and he knew nothing of it. I went over to the 911 center – our emergency contact center – talked with our director and he knew nothing of it. I called the police chief of LaPorte, and he knew nothing of it,” Mollenhauer said.
But the center’s assistant director, Bill Hackett, told WSBT a community corrections field officer drove the report to the 911 center less than two hours after the men escaped. He said the center also followed protocol the morning after the escape, delivering a report to the county prosecutor to put warrants out for both escapees.
“There are responsibilities to notifying the public, citizens of LaPorte County when something happens like this and the law enforcement agencies should have been notified immediately,” Mollenhauer said. “[The nature of the escape] is a violent act.”
Hackett said the corrections center does not accept violent offenders into its program. Baxter was serving time for possession of a controlled substance from charges out of Starke County. Smith was at the center for a misdemeanor conviction. Neither was allowed to leave the facility.
Both Sheriff Mollenhauer and Hackett said they plan to bring up the question of protocol at an already scheduled advisory board meeting later this month.
Smith’s death is being blamed on a suggested drug overdose. Starke County police picked up Aaron Baxter Tuesday night.