Archive for Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Getaway van found in Bonner

Woman accused of helping escapee

February 15, 2006

Authorities have recovered the canine-rescue program van they believe was used to shuttle a convicted murderer out of the Lansing Correctional Facility, but the escapee and the program's president remained at-large Tuesday afternoon.

The Kansas Department of Corrections on Tuesday afternoon said investigators acting on a tip found the Safe Harbor Prison Dog van t a storage facility near Bonner Springs. Wyandotte County officials said the van was discovered at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

A woman answering the telephone at Ensign Mini Storage, 399 N. 130th St., confirmed the van had been found there, but said she could not provide any additional information.

Authorities believe the van was used Sunday by 48-year-old Toby Young, founder of the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program, to help 27-year-old John M. Manard escape from the prison.

Manard had been serving a life sentence for a 1997 carjacking murder in Johnson County. He'd been a participant in the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program for about a year, prison officials said.

The Leavenworth police department, with the assistance of the Wyandotte County sheriff's office, was processing the van for evidence.

"It did not appear there had been any struggle or anything like that in it," said Bill Miskell, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, reinforcing authorities' belief that Young was a willing participant in the escape.

A warrant was issued for Young's arrest Monday after investigators pieced together information that led them to believe she aided Manard's escape from the prison's medium-security unit on Sunday.

"We believe that she was driving the van at the time that it left, and he was in the van at the time," Miskell said at a news conference Monday night at the prison.

Young is president of the Safe Harbor Prison Dogs program and has been since its founding in August 2004. For the past 18 months, she has been a regular visitor to the Lansing prison's maximum-, medium- and minimum-security areas.

Currently nearly 50 dogs are in the program, which receives dogs from shelters across northeast Kansas and matches them with inmates who feed, groom and socialize the dogs to improve their chances of being placed in a new home.

Young, a Piper resident, is married. Her husband, Pat, a firefighter, politely declined an interview request Tuesday.

"I'm not physically or emotionally able to comment at this time," he said.

Miskell said the news about Young, who is described as a white female, 5-foot-1, 130 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes, had shaken the Lansing prison staff.

"I think staff here at the facility are still trying to grasp what has happened," Miskell said. "You're right, Toby Young was well-known by staff, well-liked by staff. She had been around for, as I say, about 18 months working through the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program, a very positive program."

What Manard was doing Sunday, what Young was doing Sunday and whether the van was searched before it left the prison have yet to be determined, Miskell said.

"Vehicles are routinely searched; that's one of the things that's being investigated at this time," he said.

Manard is described as a white male, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, with red/auburn hair and hazel eyes. Authorities say he should be considered armed and dangerous. He was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and criminal possession of a firearm in Johnson County District Court. He was sentenced in April 1997.

Miskell said authorities had no idea where the fugitives were headed. The focus of the investigation now, he said, was on efforts to identify anyone who might have sold a vehicle in the past 30 days or so to Young.

"We found the van in a storage locker within 10 miles of the Lansing Correctional Facility," Miskell said. "From that, we're making the assessment they are in another vehicle. Other vehicles to which she had access have been accounted for."

Corrections secretary Roger Werholtz on Tuesday authorized a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the successful apprehension of Manard.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.