Atmore man charged with burglary, sexual abuse escapes from county jail

Published 5:48 am Monday, July 17, 2006

By By Janet Little Cooper
An Atmore resident was captured Thursday morning after escaping from the Escambia County Detention Center in Brewton Wednesday.
Tracy Owens, 36, of 166 Maxwell Street in Atmore was being held on charges stemming from two burglaries in Atmore last week.
According to police reports, Owens broke into the home of a 76-year-old Atmore woman during the night of July 4, while she was sleeping and sexually abused her.
Owens is charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree sexual abuse and second-degree forgery stemming from the incident. Police are not releasing details of the sexual abuse to protect the identity of the victim.
Residents of 7th Avenue spotted the subject the morning of July 7 walking down the street.
"I was outside watering my flowers," a 7th Avenue resident , who wishes to remain anonymous, said. "He walked by and threw his hand up and I waved back."
Moments after this, Owens cut between houses and entered into the side door of the resident's home stealing jewelry, clothing and $120 cash according to reports.
"I didn't know anything until I went back inside after watering my flowers," the resident said. "He came in a side door and took some of my wife's rings, went through her pocket book and took money, and took some of my clothing and my house slippers. By the time I got in the house he was already gone. I realized that it was the same man I had seen walking down the street when the police brought him to me to identify."
After being apprehended by the Atmore Police Department, Owens was transferred to the Escambia County Jail in Brewton where he later escaped.
"We only had three (people) on staff that day," said Capt. James Freeman, the county jail administrator. "He walked out the back door through the sallyport."
Freeman said Owens was able to make it to Atmore, where he was arrested.
"Just that little walk could get him 10 years," Freeman said.
Owens is also being charged with second-degree burglary for the 7th Avenue incident.
Escambia County sheriff Grover Smith takes full responsibility for what happened at the detention center and realizes they have a problem that is being addressed.
"The subject was in a cubicle using the telephone Wednesday when he observed an exterior door being left propped open by a workman and also noticed that the door to his cubicle was not secure," Smith said. "No one was monitoring the suspect at the time and he was able to exit the facility unnoticed and catch a ride to Atmore. The indicator panel on the cubicle door was not working properly and is one of the ones that are currently being replaced. What happened is inexcusable and we have already had a meeting addressing the issue. I as sheriff am ultimately responsible for what goes on in this jail. I realize that we've got some problems and we are addressing them. This is just another indicator and is a by-product of the progress we are making hopefully, but I am responsible and am trying to correct those issues."
According to Smith, the Atmore Police Department and Escambia County Deputy Greg Forbes chased Owens with the tracking dogs from Fountain Correctional Center all Wednesday night.
The officers received a tip Thursday morning that led them to Owens. Smith said that he was found hiding out in a trailer near Poarch and offered no resistance.
Owens is now being charged with escape that carries a penalty of one to 10 years in the state penitentiary as well as his previous charges.

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