Search continues for felon who escaped from county courthouse

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Steven Taylor was seated in one of these seats in the Polk courtroom and fled out the door next to the seats.Taylor fled down these back stairs of the courthouse.Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill says Taylor is the brother-in-law of former Polk sheriff Chris Abril, and Abril is currently cooperating with the sheriff&squo;s office to help find Taylor. Hill says Taylor has other relatives and connections in the area.

According to the N.C. Department of Corrections, Taylor was an inmate at Lumberton Correctional Institution serving a 1-year 6-month sentence for speeding to elude arrest and failure to heed lights/siren. He was in Polk County this week facing additional charges.

Taylor, 43, was convicted by a jury in Polk County Superior Court Tuesday for possessing a firearm as a felon and he returned Wednesday for sentencing, say court officials.&bsp; As a habitual felon, he was facing 14 to 17 years in jail on the firearms charge, according to a court bailiff, who was in the room at the time Taylor escaped.

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The bailiff says Taylor was restrained when he entered the courtroom, but the restraints were removed when Taylor was seated, following regular courtroom procedure. The bailiff says Taylor jumped up quickly before court began and left the courtroom through a back door used by court personnel. The door leads to stairs connecting to the ground floor.

Taylor left the courthouse out the back door of the ground floor and reportedly may have crossed the lawn at Stearns building and headed behind it to US 74. A witness apparently reported seeing a man jump into a gulley on US 74.&bsp; The sheriff&squo;s office received many other tips from people who reported seeing someone suspicious or someone who matched the description, but police had not determined Taylor&squo;s location or his path as of Wednesday early afternoon.

Sheriff Hill says he knew Taylor was a flight risk because he has had to chase him twice before and he expressed frustration that he was not restrained in the courtroom.

A highway patrol helicopter arrived at about 10:45 a.m. to assist in the search. The sheriff&squo;s office also was reportedly employing K-9 units and had brought in several blood hounds for the search. They planned to&bsp; start the search with the blood hounds from the last place Taylor was seen at the courthouse.

The N.C. Department of Correction was assisting in the search. Anyone with any information relating to the fugitive is asked to call the Polk County Sheriff&squo;s Office at 894-3001. &bsp;