ST. LOUIS (AP) — Two murder suspects and a third inmate who escaped from a southeast Missouri jail were found hiding Tuesday in the cab of a truck at a salvage yard, still wearing their orange jail suits but without their shoes, authorities said.
The trio — Matthew Brandon Cook, Kade Reaves Stringfellow and Rodney Joe Green — were taken into custody around 3:30 p.m. without incident, said Missouri Highway Patrol spokesman Trooper Clark Parrott. One of the men had previously worked at the salvage yard, which was about five miles from the jail.
"The guys who were out there searching were doing a systematic search and opened up the cab and there the three of them were," Parrott said, adding that all three were wearing orange jail-issued shirts and pants but had lost their shoes.
All three men had been jailed awaiting trials. Cook and Stringfellow were facing murder charges in separate cases, while Green was facing charges for allegedly shooting and wounding a couple after breaking into their home.
The men had walked to get to the salvage yard just east of Poplar Bluff after escaping around 11:30 p.m. Monday through the ceiling of the Butler County Jail. Parrott said authorities hadn't received a tip that the men were there.
"It was just, 'Hey, where would you go if you were on the run?' Someplace familiar," Parrott said. "We have turned over every rock we could find in Poplar Bluff and southeast Butler County today. And that was just one more place for us to go look."
Parrott said the men were being interviewed, and he didn't have any information about new charges.
Cook's public defender, Ian Page, said he hadn't had a chance to talk to his client and couldn't comment. Stringfellow's attorney didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment, and no attorney was listed for Green in online court records.
Sheriff Mark Dobbs didn't immediately respond to phone messages Tuesday left by The Associated Press, but he told local media that the inmates climbed through air ducts to get out of the jail. He blamed faulty building design — walls that don't extend all the way up to the ceiling — that he said he and two previous sheriffs have tried to get fixed.
Jail employees discovered the inmates were missing a short time after the escape, said Frank Casteel, 911 director for Butler County.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol, Butler County authorities and police from neighboring counties and towns assisted in the search that extended as far as Little Rock, Ark. Schools in the town limited access and took other precautions, Poplar Bluff School District Superintendent Chris Hon said.
Cook, 29, is one of two men charged with first-degree murder, robbery and other crimes in the Feb. 19 killing of a man in a McDonald's parking lot in Advance, Mo. Court documents allege he sent a text message to the victim using the cellphone of a woman they both knew, asking Crow to meet at the restaurant. The victim was found fatally shot in his pickup truck the next day. Surveillance video helped lead police to Cook and a man who was with him.
Stringfellow, 23, of Portageville, is charged with second-degree murder in the July death of his infant son. A probable cause statement said medical workers became suspicious due to the child's injuries and inconsistent statements by Stringfellow, who claimed he had slipped and fallen while holding the infant.
Green, 40, of Poplar Bluff, is facing multiple charges for allegedly breaking into a rural Butler County home in February, holding a husband and wife at gunpoint, then shooting them after a struggle before getting away with their pickup truck. The man was struck in the thigh and his wife was shot in the hand. Both survived.
Green was captured days later after a state trooper spotted him driving on a rural road and gave chase. The chase ended when Green's car struck a utility pole and a tree.