The VICE Guide to Right Now

Cops Say Repeat Prison Escapee Got Help from a Drone

It was Jimmy Causey's second escape from a maximum-security prison in 12 years.
July 7, 2017, 9:42pm
Photo of Jimmy Causey via Williamson County Jail via AP

Jimmy Causey could not have picked a more poetic time to make his second prison break. As the sun was setting on July 4, police say that the South Carolina inmate used drone-delivered pliers to cut his way to freedom from Lieber Correctional Institution. He then cleverly placed a dummy in his bed, fooling the guards to get one hell of a head start.

Despite the fact the Causey had about 18 hours on the cops, he only lasted about twice as long on the outside. The 46-year-old was apprehended Friday at about 4 AM by Texas Troopers who stormed the Austin motel he was hiding out in, the New York Times reports. Adding intrigue to the whole situation is the fact that during that time, the fugitive managed to accumulate about $47,000 in cash, an ID, four cellphones, and two guns, according to the Associated Press.


Authorities believe that Causey—who was sentenced to life in prison for holding a lawyer named Jack Swerling and his family hostage in 2002—orchestrated the whole thing using a cellphone he smuggled into the maximum security prison.

"We 100 percent know a cellphone was used, or multiple cellphones were used, while he was incarcerated," South Carolina Department of Corrections director Brian Stirling said at a news conference on Friday. "And we believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allowed him to escape."

It's still unclear how Causey managed to get ahold of all those items. It does, however, seem like he's gotten slightly better at breaking out from behind bars since his last attempt in 2005.

That's when he and another inmate named Johnny Brewer—who was convicted of strangling his sister-in-law in 1999—hid in garbage truck that was leaving their prison. Guards realized they were gone only about two hours later after finding a set of toilet paper dummies in their bunks. A woman delivering pizza to the fugitives at a nearby motel became suspicious when she was told that her money would be left on a dresser and that she was to take it and leave.

Unfortunately, the men didn't leave enough and had to slip the woman a $5 bill through the door, which gave her enough of a glimpse to recognize a wanted man. In that instance, Causey also managed to last about two days outside before he was captured and sent back to prison.

Drones seem to pose a growing threat to prison authorities because they can't be stopped with nets or fences. In July 2015, one such robot caused chaos when it dropped five ounces of tobacco, 2.3 ounces of weed, and 0.2 ounces of heroin into a Ohio prison yard.

Although the cops might not yet be able to deal with the threat posed by drones, they seem committed to finding the people who operated the one that apparently helped Causey.

"Everyone who assisted him—we intend on bringing them to justice as well," State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said Friday.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.