Bibb inmate used flip-flop to unlock cell, escape

awomack@macon.comNovember 10, 2009 

The inmate who escaped from the Bibb County jail Saturday night used his rubber flip-flop to unlock the door to a cell he was sharing with four other people, according to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

Deante Gholston, 20, was recaptured early Sunday morning and is being held at the Bibb County jail on a new charge of escape and his original charge of armed robbery. His bond is $47,800, according to jail records.

Sheriff Jerry Modena cites a staffing shortage, overcrowding and a defective lock as the reasons why Gholston was able to escape from a locked cell.

At 7:30 p.m. when Gholston escaped, Modena said the jail was within one or two people of its 966-inmate capacity. To alleviate crowding in the general population, five people had been moved to a cell located adjacent to the sally port, an area where deputies unload newly arrested people from their cars and take them into the jail.

The cell typically is used as a place where deputies can quickly separate prisoners if a fight breaks out in the area. It’s not designed for housing inmates for long periods of time, he said.

Modena said jailers made a mistake in putting Gholston in the cell. They should have moved inmates accused of misdemeanors and non-violent offenses into the cell.

“He should not have been in there,” Modena said of Gholston, who is accused of robbing Golden Beauty Supply, 2525 Pio Nono Ave. Suite D, on March 10.

“We were understaffed,” he said, explaining the jail was operating with between six and eight fewer employees than needed at the time. The sheriff’s office has 15 vacant positions in the jail and nine jailers are serving in the military.

The sheriff’s office is conducting a disciplinary investigation, Modena said.

Somehow, Gholston was able to unlock the cell door and an alarm sounded. When jailers checked the cell they found the door ajar, but four people were inside. After closing the door, they discovered Gholston was missing, Modena said.

After leaving the cell Gholston ran out of the sally port and climbed over the outer fence, he said.

Modena said deputies believe the lock on the cell was defective. It’s been repaired where the lock can be used, but Modena said deputies will avoid using the cell until they can consult with the manufacturer.

“I’m afraid to take that chance,” he said.

Other locks in the jail have been checked and are in working order, he said.

Deputies started searching the streets near the jail as soon as they realized Gholston was missing. A CrimeStoppers tip led deputies to the Millerfield Road area of east Macon where they found a vacant apartment where they believe Gholston hid for a while.

They later found him at about 6 a.m. Sunday at Latanya Village Apartments, 2565 Millerfield Road. Gholston was taken into custody without incident, Modena said.

He said there’s no sign that anyone assisted Gholston in his escape or helped hide him.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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