Update: Unicoi Co. escapee captured

Brad Hicks • Nov 20, 2012 at 8:33 AM

UPDATE: Unicoi County Sheriff's Office deputies reported this morning that fugitive Ruth Nioka Barnett had been recaptured.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for details.


Earlier report from 2:07 a.m.:

ERWIN — Authorities are searching for an inmate who escaped from the Unicoi County Jail Annex on Monday evening.

Unicoi County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said Ruth Nioka Barnett, 43, of 911 Massachusetts Avenue, Lot 20, Unicoi, escaped the jail annex yard at around 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Barnett was arrested in August and charged with promotion of the manufacture of methamphetamine after police said they found a large methamphetamine lab at the Unicoi home of Barnett and her husband. A federal grand jury indicted Barnett on charges of conspiracy charges related to the manufacture of methamphetamine last week.

Rogers said Barnett was arrested by the Erwin Police Department on Monday and was being held at the Jail Annex until she could be transferred to federal custody on Tuesday morning. Rogers said Barnett escaped the jail annex by climbing two fences.

"That fence was secure," said Karen Burke, supervisory deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service. "She just wanted out bad enough to jump over three strands of barbed wire."

The U.S. Marshals Service is leading the investigation to locate Barnett and is being assisted by the Erwin Police Department, Unicoi County Sheriff's Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Burke said authorities are offering a reward of up to $1,000 for any information leading to Barnett's arrest.

"We consider any defendants who are facing methamphetamine charges to be a danger to the community," Burke said. "She is facing conspiracy charges related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine. Because her charges are federal, anyone who aids or hinders the fugitive investigation will be charged federally and most of those charges carry a statutory penalty of up to five years in federal prison."

Barnett is described as being 5'2" and weighing approximately 125 pounds with brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a blue jail uniform. Burke said it is believed that Barnett is still in the area and that officials are following several leads.

Those with any information are asked to contact the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department at (423) 743-1850 or the U.S. Marshals at 1-800-336-0102.

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