Jail-born love story leads back to prison

CUMBERLAND -- The two prisoners kissed and cuddled to the extent their wrist and ankle manacles would allow. He had once been her prisoner, she had once been his guard until, police say, they ran away to Canada together.

Edgar Eugene Kerns, 30, the prisoner charged with escaping the Allegany County Detention Center in August, and prison guard Sandra Kay Beeman, 46, who was charged with helping him escape, were driven back yesterday to where their romance started.


They kissed on the way out of the county sheriff's office and while waiting for a hearing before the District Court commissioner, who denied them bail yesterday because of their apparent propensity to flee. In a bail review in District Court today, the judge set bail for Beeman at $500,000, a county jail officer said, though the officer didn't expect that Beeman would raise that amount any time soon.

Beeman appeared yesterday with her arm in a sling. The police said she injured it in a car accident during the jailbreak.


"You can pretty well say the love affair was true," said Gary Simpson, the undersheriff of Allegany County. He and another officer drove the couple to Cumberland from Buffalo, N.Y., where they had been deported after being captured in Canada Oct. 18.

During the drive, "they seemed in a fine mood, laughing and giggling," Simpson said. "But the closer we got to Cumberland, you could tell the party was ending. The honeymoon was over in Niagara Falls."

Although the police initially thought Beeman had been kidnapped, she was actually an accomplice to the Aug. 29 escape of Kerns and James Vernon Barnes, Simpson said.

She must have done it for love, Simpson said. "Why else would you open the door of maximum security?"

Barnes was captured Sept. 2 in his hometown of Romney, W. Va. Beeman and Kerns were found last month in Hamilton, Ontario, when the managers of their motel recognized them on the television program "Unsolved Mysteries."

Upon seeing their screen images, "we knew right away they were in Room 12," said Nancy Mitchell, who manages the Beach Motor Inn on the Lake Ontario shore with her husband.

When police arrived, Beeman and Kerns were gone. Police found them a few hours later at another Hamilton motel.

Mitchell said Beeman and Kerns had checked in at the Beech Motor Inn Sept. 10 as "Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith on vacation from West Virginia."


But the couple rarely ventured out of their room. It didn't seem like much of a vacation, Mitchell said. "Personally, I didn't like them . . . There was something about them."

They paid their room rent, after much coaxing from her husband, Mitchell said, until the last week of their stay, for which they still owe about 140 Canadian dollars.

Before his escape, Kerns was awaiting sentencing on charges of grand larceny and writing bad checks. With that sentence pending, the police said, he is ineligible for bail.

In connection with the prison break, the police have charged Kerns with the following crimes: escape; destruction of property; damage to his cell bars with a hacksaw; theft of prison keys; two counts of assault, one on a guard and another on an inmate; receiving contraband in the form of hacksaw blades; and two counts of conspiracy, one for receiving the contraband, the other for plotting his escape.

Kerns also was charged with kidnapping Beeman. But Simpson said this charge likely would be dropped.

Simpson said that Beeman was charged with aiding an escape, delivering the contraband hacksaw blades and a camera to prison, conspiracy to deliver that contraband and conspiracy in the escape.


Simpson said that Canadian authorities also had charged Beeman and Kerns with stealing checks from a used-car lot in Hamilton and beating their motel rent. But police there probably would drop those charges, Simpson said.

Beeman will be moved from her former place of employment to a Garrett County facility unless she makes bail today. "We don't want any bad blood between her and the people she worked with," Simpson said.

Kerns will stay where he is, Simpson said. "Home sweet home."