It’s been two days since an audacious prison escape in rural Georgia left two guards dead and two fugitives on the loose. And on Thursday, with the trail cold, Georgia increased the reward for information leading to their capture to $130,000 as the scope of the manhunt expands.
“I have been a police officer of some sort in this state for over 43 years, and I can tell you today there has never been a reward that large,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said during a Thursday joint press conference with the FBI and other agencies.
Early Tuesday morning, 43-year-old Donnie Russell Rowe, a.k.a. “Whiskey,” and 24-year-old Ricky Dubose were on a transport bus with 31 other cuffed and shackled prisoners. The bus was taking them from Baldwin State Prison in Milledgeville, Georgia — about 75 miles southeast of Atlanta — to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson about 50 miles away.
Rowe was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for multiple armed robberies; Dubose was serving 20 years for armed robbery and aggravated assault. The two men were cellmates.
In the early hours of Tuesday they, along with 31 other cuffed-and-shackled prisoners were loaded on a transport bus being driven by Correctional Officers Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue.
At about 6:45 a.m., Dubose and Rowe somehow got out of both their restraints and the locked cage in the back of the bus in which prisoners are secured. They overpowered correctional officers Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue before murdering them with their own guns. The other prisoners on the bus, Sills said, “did not visibly participate” in the escape.
The prisoners then carjacked a passing 2004 Honda Civic and headed east on Georgia Highway 16. They were later spotted near the town of Madison when they broke into a home sometime around 10:30 a.m. and stole clothes and food. About four hours later, the pair was seen in a nearby Family Dollar store.
That night, police say, Rowe and Dubose broke into the Martin Marietta Morgan County Quarry, located about 9 miles from the Family Dollar, and stole a white Ford F-250 pickup.
They have not been spotted since.
Police found the Honda Wednesday evening in a wooded embankment off the side of the road near the home that was broken into. Forensic evidence, according to Sills, suggests the car was ditched prior to the burglary.
On Thursday, Special Agent David LeValley, head of the FBI’s Atlanta office, announced the start of a billboard campaign urging the public to help find the fugitives, and acknowledged that the hunt is no longer limited to Georgia, but now national.
Sills went one better than that.
“We’re actively looking for these two individuals,” he said, “anywhere they might be on the planet Earth.”
Update 9 p.m. ET Authorities say both men were apprehended after a car chase in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. According to WXIA, authorities tracked the men down after they stole a Jeep and some guns from a couple who were found tied up in Shelbyville, Tennessee. When police stopped the car on the interstate, the men took off on foot, where they were captured.