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October 3, 2012

Task force searches for prison escapee

THOMASVILLE —

A federal task force has taken on the search for a Thomas County Prison escapee.

The Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force is following leads in the escape of Jerry Darrin Ross midafternoon Tuesday, Sept. 25, from a prison work detail at Country Oaks Golf Course on Pavo Road.

Jeff Wessel, Macon-based investigator, said the task force is “actively pursuing several avenues for appending him.”

“We’ve got leads developed in several different directions,” Wessel told the Times-Enterprise. “We’re following up on them.”

Wessel, a Georgia Department of Corrections investigator assigned to the task force, declined to elaborate on specifies of the manhunt.

The task force, he said, is “geared toward violent criminals.”

Ross, from Irwin County, was serving time for a burglary conviction.

Bobby Geer, prison warden, said the escape is not Ross’ first.

“He had escaped before, but we did not know it until he escaped this time,” Geer explained.

Ross, 38, escaped from the Ben Hill Detention Center while serving a sentence for a burglary conviction. Geer said had he known the prisoner had escaped previously, he would not have been accepted at the prison here.

“He was found in South Carolina then,” the warden said.

Ross has a history of resisting arrest, Geer added.

He said some inmates “run to run, thinking they might get away.”

“This one had a plan. That makes a big difference,” Geer said.

Ross is believed to have stolen a bucket truck in Thomas County soon after the escape. The vehicle malfunctioned and was abandoned in southern Grady County.

Later that day, the escapee is believed to have stolen a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe off Ga. 93 south in Grady County, said Lt. Tim Watkins, Thomas County Sheriff’s Office chief investigator.

Geer said Ross is in possession of a cell phone.

The escapee is divorced and estranged from the children’s mother. He has three young children.

Geer said an inmate’s concern for his children — or “bad news from home” — is sometimes the reason for an escape.

When captured, Ross faces one to 10 years in prison for the escape and 15 years of incarceration for each stolen vehicle.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.

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Pictured from left are Wilma Kelley, DAR Membership Committee, Thomasville Chapter NSDAR; Florence Harrell, Charlotte Brown, Carol Lehman and Cheryl Mills, new DAR members of the Thomasville Chapter NSDAR; and Melody Porter, DAR registrar, Thomasville Chapter NSDAR.

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