Charles Victor Thompson bluffed his way past guards at the Baker Street Jail on the north side of downtown and was on the run for three days before he was arrested in Shreveport, Louisiana, drunk and on a bicycle in front of a liquor store. Now more details about his escape are emerging, but Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas says Thompson didn't have outside help. "It does not appear at this time that there was any involvement from any outside source. It was something that Thompson had been planning for two years," he says.
Thompson had been on death row in Huntsville for the double murders of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend and was in Houston for court hearings related to an appeal in that case. Thomas says Thompson was able to escape because of a string of human errors which allowed him to eventually walk out of the jail and hop a freight train out of town. "He smuggled in an ID from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in his legal papers. He also smuggled in a handcuff key. When he went to court he had court clothes on. He was able to disguise those clothes under his orange jumpsuit. He kept them in his cell and he changed them when he went inside the attorneys booth," he says.
A deputy who had been with the department for 12 years has been fired because of the escape. Another deputy retired early and seven others face discipline ranging from a 10-day unpaid suspension to a written reprimand. Thomas says complacency at the jail may have played a role in Thompson's escape. "The system breakdown was employee error. The policies and procedures were in place. It was our error," he says.
The Harris County Jail system has an an average of 9500 inmates an any one time and books in about 130,000 inmates a year. There are 48 inmates to every jail employee, but Thomas says staffing was at adequate levels at the time of Thompson's escape.