By Ed Brock
Two murder suspects who escaped from the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro and jumped into a waiting car are still at large.
Floyd Wayne Williams, Jr., 25, and 28-year-old Shawn Stanley Gilreath escaped shortly before 11:30 p.m. Tuesday while they were in an exercise yard in the jail section of the justice center, Clayton County sheriff's Chief Deputy Shelby Foles said.
"They forced their way through a security mesh, climbed the perimeter fence and made their way to a small gray or silver compact car that was waiting for them," Foles said.
As of Wednesday evening that was all the information the sheriff's office had to release. The Atlanta Metro Fugitive Squad, Clayton County police and the U.S. Marshal's Service are joining the sheriff's office in the hunt for the two men who are considered to be possibly armed and dangerous.
Williams, from Union City, has been charged with murder in the shooting death of 48-year-old Alejandro Gutierrez and 16-month-old Jose Arias in October 2001. He is also the half-brother of Michael Hutson, 30, who was arrested along with another man in April of the same year in connection with a home invasion at the same home and during which the robbers held a gun to Arias' head.
Gilreath is believed to be the mastermind behind the 1996 killing of 69-year-old Edwin Levi McCollum, a clerk at the now closed Bear Paw Army-Navy Store on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro. Gilreath possibly had connections to white supremacist groups, according to published reports from the time of his arrest.
Gilreath's trial was scheduled for January, Clayton County District Attorney Bob Keller said.
"Obviously until he is apprehended there can be no trial," Keller said.
Keller said the county has not hurried to try Gilreath because he is already serving a lengthy sentence on federal charges. Keller said he didn't know what the federal charges are and Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle said he didn't know exactly how long Gilreath had been in the jail awaiting the trial here.
Both men were being held in the same section of the jail, Foles said, but other than that he did not know what kind of relationship they had. It was not unusual for one or the other of them to be in the exercise yard at that time of night, Foles said.
"These two inmates, because of their high security risk, weren't allowed to have recreation with other inmates," Foles said.
How the two inmates made it through the security screen, who was supposed to be monitoring them and how the getaway car was spotted are part of the internal investigation into the escape, Foles and Tuggle said.
Following that investigation the sheriff will determine what changes in procedure or to the exercise yard might be necessary.
This is the first escape from the jail since it was built three years ago.
Missy Lathrop lives on Poston Road behind the jail and her house is close to where the men went over the fence. She was surprised to hear about the escape.
"Not frightened, but a little bit concerned because I'm living next to the action," Lathrop said.
Anyone with information on the escape is asked to call the sheriff's office at (770) 477-4478.