Multiple guards fired or demoted after suspected killer escapes Virginia jail

Posted at 5:37 PM, May 17, 2023

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, Va. -- The governing body of Piedmont Regional Jail said several employees have been fired, demoted, or disciplined following their investigation to last month's escape of two federal inmates. The findings were discussed during a meeting of the Piedmont Regional Jail Authority (PRJA), mostly in a closed session, but the jail superintendent and authority chair and vice-chair spoke with the media after the meeting.

"Human error led to the escapes and poor performance," Piedmont Regional Jail Superintendent Jerry Townsend said. "Those individuals are being held accountable."

Townsend said the two men, Bruce Callahan, 44, and Alder Alfonso Marin-Sotelo, 26, got out of the jail through a rear exit door that was left unsecured by a guard.

The two men both escaped on April 30, but did so separately. About 22 hours elapsed between Marin's escape and Callahan's.

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Both men were eventually caught, but their disappearance was not initially reported to outside law enforcement for more than a day after Marin's escape -- raising questions about how it went unnoticed for so long.

"During that window of the first escapee. There were multiple counts, seven counts scheduled, to be conducted that were either not conducted or either not conducted properly," said Townsend.

Townsend said five security guards have been fired, several more demoted and disciplined.

The jail is also upgrading the razor wire around the site and 17 exterior locks.

"And we'll make sure that the administrative presence is here at the jail, more frequent, around the clock," added Townsend.

"We're committed to working on the superintendent making sure the personnel decisions and facility improvements that are needed are made to address the issues identified through the internal investigation," Douglas Stanley, PRJA Vice Chair and Prince Edward County Administrator, said.

But, what remains unknown is the financial impact of the escape.

The federal government contracts 100 beds at the jail, but said they were removing their inmates because of what happened.

Jail officials said 34 federal inmates are still there and discussions are ongoing about their long-term future.

"It's going to take some work on both sides to make that determination," said Tracy Gee, PRJA Chair and Lunenburg County Administrator.

Officials said if federal inmates were removed it would create a $2.7-million budget shortfall, but added they will likely make up the gap caused by the current numbers with budget cuts to be discussed at next month's meeting. Meanwhile, Townsend said he wanted the community to be assured the jail is secure.

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"It's a teachable moment for a lot of individuals. I have in 43 years been engaged in similar situations. This should make us better and stronger," he said.

Officials added since the escape happened, the jail has been on restricted movement and no visitors have been allowed. They said the restrictions could be lifted as soon as Monday.

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