ERWIN - Freedom was short-lived for a Unicoi County inmate who allegedly walked away from a work detail last Wednesday only to be arrested several hours later by officers with the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department.
Willie Joe Whitson, 35, 252 Sneed Lane, Unicoi, was arrested and charged with escape after he allegedly walked away from the work crew at the county garage. Whitson was serving time on a conviction for a retaliation of past actions charge, which was running concurrent to a violation of probation conviction on a prior simple assault charge.
When officials noticed that Whitson was no longer with the work crew, Unicoi County dispatch was notified and a search was initiated, according to the arrest report.
UCSD Chief Deputy Ronnie Adkins said officials kept a check on places that Whitson was expected to go and placed his local family members under surveillance. Around 4 p.m., Whitson was spotted in a vehicle traveling along Second Street.
The vehicle was stopped, and Whitson was taken into custody. While Whitson would have had to go to the Washington County Detention Center to serve time for charges there, Adkins said, Whitson's stay in the Unicoi County Jail was scheduled to be up on Dec. 17.
Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris said this marked the first time since March 2003 that a Unicoi County inmate had left a work detail. At that time, Harris said, inmate Andy Parlier walked away from a detail at a camp in Unicoi. He was found the following day hiding in a dumpster, Harris said.