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Friday, July 1, 2016

Woodrum, Shankle captured

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Eight days after their escape from Independence County jail May 19, suspected murderers Bryan Shankle and Bobby Woodrum were back behind bars.

A phone call from a concerned citizen tipped off the Independence County Sheriff's Department about their possible location.

Shortly after midnight, Independence County officers surrounded a vacant mobile home off Jay Road, just over the line into Cleburne County. The officers entered the mobile home and apprehended Shankle and Woodrum without incident.

Shankle and Woodrum are currently being detained in separate cells under close supervision in Independence County Jail, according to Capt. Bill Lindsey.

Daniel Avey, jailer on duty when the two previously escaped, has been fired due to negligence pertaining to this incident, said Lindsey.

John Henry Figueroa, the third escapee, is still at large. The search for Figueroa is continuing. Anyone with information about him is asked to contact the Independence County Sheriff's office at 870-793-8838 or the local law enforcement office.

A witness claimed to have seen Shankle and Woodrum in Sharp County May 22. Approximately 40 officers from Sharp, Izard, Fulton and Baxter counties swarmed Alderman Road in rural Sharp County but the suspects eluded them.

Helicopters from the Arkansas State Police and the Baxter County Sheriff's Department joined the search.

As the manhunt continued into dusk agents from the 16th Judicial District Task Force, the Arkansas State Police, and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission joined the search but were hampered by nightfall and the vast number of rugged trails which led from Alderman Road.

Sharp County officers received a call around 3:30 p.m. May 22 reporting a stolen four-wheeler. The informant told authorities the four-wheeler had been found in the woods near his home, said Joe Stidman, Sharp County chief deputy. The witness told authorities he had spotted the escapees, Bryan Shankle and Bobby Woodrum, by his home in a 1978 or 1979 Chevrolet short-bed pickup truck.

Woodrum and Shankle are both charged with capital murder in Fulton County. The two fled the jail after overpowering a jailer with the help of a third suspect, John Henry Figueroa, 26, charged with aggravated robbery and first-degree battery.

During a routine check on the inmates, the jailer, Daniel Avey, was walking across the male housing unit when Figueroa walked out of his cell and told him that if he didn't fight he wouldn't get hurt, according to an affidavit. Avey told authorities he was hit with a sock which contained a bar of soap and then was handcuffed to a post. Avey warned the three that if they tried to escape they would be met by officers in the break room. Avey claims Shankle held a knife to his throat and told him he would cut him ear to ear if he was lying.

The three then proceeded to the central control area and Woodrum told the matron, Kera Cook, not to resist and she wouldn't get hurt, according to the report. Woodrum grabbed Cook and threw her on the floor. He then started punching buttons on the console until the electronic doors opened and the suspects fled, according to the affidavit.

Two pairs of jail-issued flip flops were found shortly after the escape in the early morning hours by the bayou, close to the jail. The third pair, believed to have been worn by Figueroa, was found floating in the White River later that day.

Figueroa made contact with family members the day of the escape, McSpadden said. He went to a family member's home, took a bath and left with his girlfriend in her vehicle, the prosecutor said. McSpadden theorizes the couple ditched her vehicle and then Figueroa swam across the White River to steal a utility vehicle near the Batesville Speedway late Monday night. Neither vehicle has been located.

After the jailbreak, 16th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Don McSpadden issued a statement he plans to withdraw the negotiated plea the state worked out at Woodrum's pre-trial hearing May 13 for two life sentences with no chance of parole.

A motion will be filed requesting a psychiatrist be hired to evaluate Woodrum who was determined to have an IQ of 70, said Woodrum's attorney, William James Jr.

While Shankle was still at large, his defense attorney, Larry Kissee, said his client will face new charges of escape and kidnapping, "He is making it worse on himself," Kissee said.

Shankle has been determined to be mentally retarded and does not have the capacity to say no when Woodrum plans jail breakouts, Kissee said.

Kissee has filed a motion to exclude a statement from a Missouri woman, Laurie Sigman, taken hostage by Woodrum and Shankle during a prior jail escape from the Fulton County jail March 23. The two were being held for the murder of Russell "Joe" Fisk in June of last year.

During the first jailbreak Woodrum and Shankle handcuffed the jailer, Rhonda Long, to a chair and then broke in to the evidence room and stole guns and ammunition before fleeing to Missouri.

While the pair was in Missouri they broke into a home and stole a vehicle from Sigman at gunpoint.

The motion said Woodrum made an incriminating statement to Sigman concerning the crime that both Woodrum and Shankle are charged with.

The written statement from Sigman claims one suspect explained to her why the pair were fleeing from authorities. She said she advised him not to tell her anything that would get him into trouble.

Sigman alleges that one of the suspects told her they had been doing some lawn work for the man they killed. During an argument one suspect picked up a crowbar to hit the man (Fisk) over his back but the man turned and it hit him on the head she said. The statement said he told her he didn't mean to have the sharp end pointed at Fisk. He went on to say that they had planned to break into some soda machines that night along with some other men. "At this point I was trying not to listen to what he was saying and he talked a while longer and I just tuned him out," Sigman said.

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