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Jailer: Inmates escape cell through ceiling

By: Angela Beavin Email
By: Angela Beavin Email

An intense manhunt continues for two men who escaped from the Powell County Jail early Thursday morning.

A fellow inmate told jail officials he saw 24-year-old Josh Abner and 26-year-old Phillip Wells crawl through a ceiling panel to escape.

The two were sharing the cell with seven other inmates.

"Another inmate had said they went through the roof, and they'd just gone out. By the time we got around there they'd already gone," said Powell County Jailer Travis Crabtree.

Police immediately began searching for Abner, who's from McKee, and Wells, who's from Richmond.

The men were booked in Powell County on December 5 for burglary, theft, and criminal mischief charges. Abner's also charged for being a persistent felon.

Sheriff's deputies say the charges don't stop there.

"I would say that at least five other counties have charges on these two," says Powell County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Mathews.

Officials say family members of Abner and Wells in surrounding counties are aware of their escape. Police are working with relatives on tracking the two down.

"We have some leads at this time. We're focusing on family members and things of that nature," Mathews says.

Police say soon after the inmates escaped, a car was stolen from an apartment parking lot near the jail. They believe Abner and Wells could be the thieves. Investigators say they're looking for a 1993 Honda Civic.

In October, a similar situation occurred at the Powell County Jail. Another inmate also escaped through the ceiling. At that time, jail officials blamed a construction flaw.

Officials say the Department of Corrections is expected to inspect the ceiling Thursday to see if it needs repairs or to be replaced.

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