Sheriff plans changes to avoid future escapes; Taylor got away twice before

Published 1:58 pm Friday, March 13, 2009

Steven TaylorTaylor&squo;s handcuffs and shackles were removed before he entered the courtroom, which officials say is standard procedure so as not to influence the jury. Taylor fled out of a back door just before&bsp; court began, around 9:15 a.m. After being seated unrestrained, he went out a back door, jumped the stairwell and out the back of the courthouse, according to court officials.

Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill says from interviewing other inmates, he believes Taylor had planned to flee if given the chance. Hill says he doesn&squo;t believe Taylor had any kind of detailed plan for escape, but did have it in his head if given the opportunity Wednesday, he would run. Hill said interviews indicated that Taylor had stated he wouldn&squo;t be in jail long and he requested tennis shoes for wearing to his sentence hearing.

&dquo;I don&squo;t think there was an actual plan, but by talking to inmates, he was looking for an opportunity,&dquo; Sheriff Hill said during a press conference yesterday afternoon. &dquo;He requested a certain type shoes to go to court and that makes sense now.&dquo;

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Hill says he has already researched better courtroom procedures and says he won&squo;t guarantee that an escape won&squo;t happen again, but he sure will make it near impossible. Hill is looking into a taser type restraint or a leg locking device that can be hidden under an inmate&39;s clothing to prevent any type of escape, something small counties such as Polk don&squo;t normally have.

Hill apologized for the incident and regrets that many agencies are taking so much time to help locate Taylor.

He said he was unaware court officials were going to order Taylor&squo;s restraints be removed and if he&squo;d known that in time he would have solved that problem.

Hill also said he doesn&squo;t know for sure if Taylor is still in Polk County or if he had a car waiting somewhere to flee the area. This is the third time Taylor has escaped Polk County law enforcement. On one occasion, Taylor was located months later in Arizona.

The sheriff&squo;s office is continuing to aggressively search for Taylor locally and Taylor has been entered into national crime registries in case he has fled the area. The sheriff&squo;s office has had assistance from many agencies, including the N.C. Department of Corrections (DOC), N.C. Highway Patrol, the Columbus, Tryon and Saluda police departments, Rutherford County Sheriff&squo;s Office, Henderson County Sheriff&squo;s Office, Spartanburg County, S.C. Sheriff&squo;s Office, the Columbus Fire Department, Polk County Rescue Squad and the Polk County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Wednesday&squo;s search included about 100 officers plus search dogs. Yesterday the search included about 50 officers with search dogs as well. Hill says the number of officers has been scaled back, but if one good lead is received all the officers can be back quickly. So far, the sheriff&squo;s office has no solid leads or sightings.

Hill encourages the public to lock their homes, cars and outdoor buildings until Taylor is apprehended. Hill says it&squo;s hard to say whether Taylor is armed and dangerous, but given what Taylor is facing, Hill encourages no one to approach Taylor if they see him and to immediately call 911.

Taylor was last seen wearing khaki pants and a green polo shirt, but Hill says Taylor has had the opportunity to change clothing or his appearance. He is approximately 5&squo;8&dquo; tall and weighs 170 lbs. with light brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with any information that could lead to Taylor&squo;s arrest is encouraged to call the Foothills Crimestoppers at 1-800-847-7119 or the Polk County Sheriff&squo;s Office at 894-3001.