Authorities Still Searching For Haskell County Escapee

Thursday, April 24th 2014, 1:20 pm
By: News On 6

The search continues for a man who escaped from the Haskell County Jail and has been on the run since Tuesday.

Law enforcement zeroed in on a small area, but now they're broadened their search to the entire town of Keota, which is about ten miles from the jail. It is also the town where the escapee went to school.

Edward Branch, 36, has a long criminal history including convictions for assault and battery, breaking and entering, robbery by force and possession of a firearm.

4/24/2014 Related Story: Mother Of Escaped Haskell County Inmate Arrested

It has been a non-stop manhunt for Edward Branch.

"He's had all night long to run," said Keota resident, Tom Driggers.

When he escaped, Branch was jailed awaiting trial for accusations he robbed an elderly woman and held a knife to her throat.

His mother Sarah was arrested by deputies on Tuesday, and she faces charges for harboring a fugitive and obstruction of justice.

Branch broke out of the Haskell County Jail on Tuesday. Investigators say people, including Driggers, have seen Branch in Keota, a small town east of the jail.

"I spotted the escaped convict running through this swamp right here and going into these woods," Driggers said.

"If he [is] smart, he'll turn himself in because they are going to blow him to pieces if he don't. That's my version of it," Keota resident Patsy Reed said.

Tactical teams searched on the ground and from the sky, hoping to find Branch.

"Everybody pretty much is staying on lockdown, especially me. I keep my doors locked at all times during the day," Reed said.

Reed fears Branch may have an advantage since he went to school in Keota and is familiar with the town.

"This is the third day now. He's got so many relatives, probably friends in this town, so who knows, he may be right under their nose," she said.

The manhunt also has Keota Public Schools on high alert, locking down the campus and adding extra security on buses.

"It was just a situation where I felt more comfortable having the kids here, where I knew they were safe, then having them at home alone, possibly with mom and dad working," said Kelly Husted with Keota Public Schools.

School administrators hope Branch is caught soon and investigators say they'll continue working around the clock until he is back behind bars.

There are a lot of different agencies helping in this search; besides local law enforcement, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the U.S. Marshals are assisting.

Teams set up a perimeter search around the town and checked inside cars and truck beds. OHP also brought in a tactical unit and an armored truck to help with the search.

"Our message to the public is, obviously, if you see this person, don't try to do anything on your own," OHP Capt. George Brown said. "Contact the local authorities. We are taking it very seriously."

Branch is described as 36-year-old man who is 5-foot-5 and 150 pounds. He has hazel eyes and light brown hair. He also has numerous tattoos.