Colorado authorities recapture four-time escapee who fled maximum-security prison

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Colorado authorities recapture four-time escapee

DENVER — An inmate who made his fourth escape by fleeing a maximum-security prison in northeast Colorado surrendered Wednesday in a rural home where he had been holding a woman hostage, a prison official said.

Douglas J. Alward, 48, gave up without a struggle near the town of Yuma, and the woman was unharmed, said Alison Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections.

“This is excellent news for the citizens of Colorado. We had a dangerous offender on the loose, and he is in custody,” Morgan said.

Authorities said Alward would have been eligible for parole in two months. He was serving a 20- to- 40-year sentence at the Sterling Correctional Facility for attempted murder, assault, burglary and kidnapping when he escaped Sunday.

Alward will face additional charges for his escape, but state corrections officials said they aren’t sure what they would all be.

The prison is about 100 miles northeast of Denver and about 45 miles northwest of where he was captured.

Morgan said authorities had been “literally, physically tracking him” since his escape, tracing all of his movements since he fled the prison. The pursuit culminated Wednesday morning as the FBI and prison officials zeroed in on an approximate location covering a six-mile radius, Morgan said. The FBI was helped with aircraft, with a state patrol trooper using his personal airplane to help track Alward.

“So we were closing the net all morning long,” Morgan said.

Authorities had described Alward as extremely dangerous. His previous escapes involved kidnappings and a shootout with police. Morgan said she didn’t have information on the woman, including how long she had been held hostage or whether Alward was armed. Morgan said the woman was being held in what Morgan described as a “modular home.”

Ari Zavaras, state corrections director, said the woman is fine, but declined to release any personal information about her. Alward, who was unarmed when he was captured, held the woman for a couple hours in the home that abutted a dense corn field.

“He had taken some means for incapacitating her,” Zavaras said without elaborating.

State corrections officials will focus on how Alward was able to escape, possibly tapping an outside entity to investigate. Zavaras said they know he breached the fence around the perimeter using materials he apparently got from inside the prison. The materials, which Zavaras didn’t identify, were found at the fence.

Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said authorities had been going door-to-door in towns and rural areas near Sterling in their search for him.

“He planned an elaborate escape from prison,” Denver FBI spokesman Dave Joly said. “He appears to be intelligent, resourceful and motivated.”

Sanguinetti said prison officials aren’t saying how Alward escaped and are investigating whether he had help. She said he could not have simply walked away because of high security.

Authorities were offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to Alward’s capture. It wasn’t immediately known whether anyone tipped authorities to his whereabouts.

Alward was first incarcerated in 1980 for a conviction of attempted first-degree murder, assault and burglary. He escaped from Buena Vista Correctional Facility in southern Colorado on Dec. 2, 1980, by running from a prison bus with an inner tube and jumping into the Arkansas River, Sanguinetti said.

Officials caught him a short time later as he floated downstream.

On Aug. 22, 1985, Alward escaped from the Colorado Territorial Facility. Sanguinetti said he broke into a kitchen storage area and escaped through a hole in the wall. He used some boards and a rope to scale a prison wall, broke into a state transportation building, stole a dump truck and crashed it through a gate.

He was caught about five weeks later in Arizona, though Sanguinetti did not immediately have details of his capture.

On July 7, 1991, Alward was at the Fremont County Jail for a court appearance when he and another inmate overpowered a guard and stole the deputy’s 9 mm service weapon. Alward and the accomplice kidnapped a 19-year-old woman and released her in Colorado Springs, about 40 miles away from the courthouse, Sanguinetti said.

Alward fled the state and was spotted about a week later in Idaho, where he fired shots at a policeman and kidnapped a man in Garden City. He was captured in Ontario, Ore., the next day following a police chase.

Alward would have been eligible for parole in October and had worked his way to a classification considered just below minimum risk. He was two years away from manadatory parole, but would have faced federal charges upon release from state prison, Zavaras said.

Zavaras didn’t say what the federal charges were.

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