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Search for escaped inmates continues

 Search for escaped inmates continues

        Eight arrested for hindering prosecution


 Dean, Cory2017.JPG

Cory Dean

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Zepplin Kennedy

                             Article contributed by The Journal Record

News Editor

HAMILTON - The search continues for two inmates from the Marion County Jail who escaped in the early morning hours on Friday, March 17.

The manhunt has involved more than 40 law enforcement officers to this point with the trail carrying searchers as far south as Lamar County and as far west as Mississippi.

“This has been something like we rarely see here,’’ said Marion County Sheriff Kevin Williams in an interview on Monday, March 20, just prior to presstime at 3 p.m.

“But we have worked this from the very moment they fled the jail and will not stop until we have them in custody. We think that will be really soon.’’

Cory Dean, 22, Brilliant, and Zepplin Kennedy, 20, Hamilton, were being held in connection with separate cases at the time of the escape.

Dean has been charged with seven counts of third-degree burglary, third-degree criminal mischief, second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree arson and discharging a firearm into an unoccupied dwelling.

He was last seen wearing a gray short-sleeve shirt and gray sweatpants.

Kennedy was being held on 31 counts of possession of pornography and production of pornography with a minor. He was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt and white pants.

The inmates escaped from the jail around 1:30 a.m. on Friday before fleeing on foot into a nearby wooded area.

According to the sheriff, the jailer awakened the inmates a few minutes earlier to allow each to shower as each was being held in isolation.

During this time as each was walking to the shower, the sheriff said the inmates ran to the main lobby, passing through three doors to reach that point. The interior doors are triggered by pushing a button to release the locking mechanism. The panic bar on the door at the main entrance was pushed to allow the inmates to reach the parking lot.

From there, Kennedy and Dean fled to an area behind the jail and in the direction of the runway at the adjacent Marion County Airport.

In time, the suspects fled to the Buttahatchee River and crossed Marion County Roads 35 and 55 before reaching Interstate 22.

Law enforcement officers used tracking dogs from the Alabama Department of Corrections to follow the trail to this point, but the sheriff said this is where the trail went cold. Ever since, the search has been conducted following tips from an informant, who has had reason to have contact with the suspects--whether the trail was in Mississippi or parts of Alabama.

Williams said a helicopter used by state law enforcement was requested with the chopper flying in from Cullman.

However, the helicopter had been called upon less than 30 minutes earlier to assist in an unrelated search in Guin. The aerial search team aided with the Guin search prior to pulling away and coming to the aid of those searching for the escaped inmates.

Prior to 7 a.m. on Friday, the inmates were seen in the Fulton, Miss., area traveling in a gray Ford Ranger pickup with a camper shell. The truck and passengers were spotted by cameras permanently positioned on I-22 in the area.

Less than three hours later, the same pickup was reported missing near Hamilton from a private business owner.

Williams said officials with the U.S. Marshal’s Office in Birmingham were invited to join the search with officers with the U.S. Marshal’s Office in Oxford, Miss., called in to assist.

“We later learned they sold the pickup,’’ the sheriff said, citing information given to the search team from the local informant. Williams said the truck sale is believed to have been part of a drug deal.

“Dean was involved in the church burnings a few months back and we learned he had a number of drug deals going on over in Mississippi,’’ Williams said.

“The musical equipment he stole from the churches was all sold in Mississippi as part of the same process.’’

The sheriff said information regarding the whereabouts of the inmates continued to pour in on Friday night as his phone “would not stop ringing.’’

But the sheriff added, “We always seemed to be one step behind them.’’

Before 4 a.m. on Saturday, Williams said a report came in that the inmates had circled back to Alabama and had been seen in Kennedy.

The sheriff said a report had noted that Kennedy had been seen at a gas station before 7 a.m. and was believed to have been at a known drug house a few hours earlier.

The search was expanded on Saturday as officers with other departments joined as the search party had grown to more than 40 members.

But despite the additional manpower, the search failed to locate the inmates.

A coordinated event was scheduled for Sunday as two known drug houses were raided in Kennedy with a third search conducted shortly thereafter.

While the inmates were not found as a result, the search produced eight arrests on Friday and Sunday with those persons charged with hindering prosecution.

Included in the arrests were:

• Rachel Parrish, 42, Hamilton, who is Zepplin’s mother and has been charged with first-degree hindering prosecution, aiding and abetting and obstruction of government operations;

• Thomas Elinberg, 41, Hamilton, who has been charged with first-degree hindering prosecution;

• Ashley Tucker, 27, Hamilton, who has been charged with first-degree hindering prosecution;

• Danny Parker, 48, Kennedy, hindering the apprehension of an escapee;

• Randy Parker, 49, Kennedy, who has been charged with hindering the apprehension of an escapee;

• Victoria Parker, 22, Kennedy, who has been charged with hindering the apprehension of an escapee;

• Leslie Fields, 45, Millport, who has been charged with hindering the apprehension of an escapee; and

• Billy Funderburk, 46, Millport, who has been charged with hindering the apprehension of an escapee.

Bonds for everyone with the exception of Funderburk have been set at $15,000 each. No bond for Funderburk had been set as of presstime Monday afternoon, March 20.

“We want folks to know it is a crime to assist those who are running from the law,’’ said Williams, who noted those arrested were either friends or associates of the inmates. “These folks were not forthcoming with information.

“From this point, we do not think they have anymore help out there,’’ Williams said. “We think this may help us find them today (Monday, March 20). We are confident they are still in Lamar County.’’

The search team traveled to another private residence before 9 a.m. on Monday, March 20, only to learn the inmates had fled the scene moments earlier using a four-wheeler.

The most recent search was conducted on Mount Pleasant Church Road.

 Rachel Parrish.png

Rachel Parrish

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Thomas Elinberg

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Ashley Tucker

Danny Parker.JPGDanny Parker

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Randy Parker

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Victoria Parker

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Leslie Parker

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Billy Funderburk

(When a defendant is charged with a crime, the charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.)


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