Handcuffed man breaks free from Unicoi Co. deputies, captured two days later

Brad Hicks • Jul 3, 2012 at 3:37 PM

ERWIN — Three people from New York were arrested over the weekend by the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department after they were reportedly found to be in possession of an allegedly stolen vehicle.

Marques Patrick Milligan, 29, of an unknown address in New York, Wesley Grimmer McDuffie, 47, also from New York, and Shannon Richards, 25, Norwood Road, Clinton, N.Y., were arrested. Milligan was charged with evading arrest, providing false information to a police officer, and possession of stolen property, and was later charged with two counts of aggravated assault of a police officer, theft over $5,000 and being a fugitive from justice. McDuffie was charged with being a fugitive from justice, possession of stolen property and criminal impersonation for allegedly providing a false name to authorities. Richards was charged with possession of stolen property.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said that at approximately 5 a.m. Friday, officers with the sheriff’s department were checking a vehicle parked at Jack Snider Park, located off Exit 32 in Unicoi. Hensley said officers observed occupants asleep both inside and lying beside the vehicle. A check on the vehicle’s tag showed that the vehicle had been reported as stolen out of the state of New York, Hensley said.

As Unicoi County dispatch was contacting law enforcement in New York to confirm that the vehicle had been stolen, Milligan, McDuffie and Richards were handcuffed, and McDuffie and Richards were placed into a police cruiser, Hensley said. However, Milligan managed to break free of the officers and flee the scene, according to Hensley.

“He wasn’t under arrest at the time, but he was being detained because the vehicle had been reported stolen,” Hensley said.

Hensley said officials then began a search of the area in an attempt to locate Milligan. He also said the two other suspects being detained were only providing Milligan’s first name and were, at that point, uncooperative with officers.

Hensley said he and Investigator David Walker later questioned Richards, Milligan’s girlfriend, who gave them information on Milligan and advised that he was wanted on a parole violation out of New York. Officials were able to obtain a photograph of Milligan and obtained his cell phone number.

“He was street smart,” Hensley said of Milligan. “He actually forwarded the cell phone number to a landline up north so nobody could track the phone.”

Walker and Hensley were able to contact some of Richards’ family members to see if Milligan had been in contact with them. They advised that he had been in contact to say that he was still in Tennessee, Hensley said.

“So we gave a fake story for them to tell him that (Richards) was out of jail, that the other boy had took the rap for the stolen vehicle, and she was staying here at a local motel here in Unicoi County and was waiting for his arrival, that she wanted to leave with him,” Hensley said.

Hensley said Milligan later began texting Richards to ask directions to the motel. Richards was still in police custody, but officials responded to Milligan’s texts directing him to a motel located on the north end of Unicoi County.

Hensley and an undercover team set up around the motel and eventually observed a black truck driven by Milligan circle the parking lot. Hensley said when Milligan realized what was going on, he attempted to ram the vehicle he and Walker had arrived in.

“Other officers were able to subdue him and cut the motor off before it actually had done any damage to the vehicles,” Hensley said, adding that Milligan was in possession of an open knife and that the truck he was driving when he arrived at the motel had been stolen from a Limestone Cove resident. A piece of the handcuff Milligan was wearing was also found in his pocket, as was a makeshift handcuff key, Hensley said.

Hensley said Milligan was arrested at around 11:45 a.m. Sunday. He said Milligan’s escape was kept quiet to prevent him from learning that police were in pursuit and to keep him from leaving the area.

“We knew the type of person we were dealing with was real street smart, and he had a smart phone that he could be using to listen to news media,” Hensley said. “We kept everything quiet so that we could do the investigation and take him into custody.”

The three arrested appeared in Unicoi County Sessions Court on Monday morning. A $25,000 corporate bond was set for Richards and she is set to again appear in court on July 19. A $50,000 corporate bond was set for McDuffie, and he is set to appear in Sessions Court on Thursday. A $75,000 corporate bond was set for Milligan, and he is also scheduled to appear in Sessions Court on Thursday.

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