OSP officials investigating digging by inmates

Monday, April 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ Corrections officers conducting routine searches found three inmates had started digging into their concrete cell floors at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

``We feel it wasn't an escape attempt,'' said Bobby Boone, state Department of Corrections regional director. ``Only one had penetrated the four inches of concrete. He dug a four-inch hole.''

The inmates were identified as convicted killers Adam T. Wright and James Thomas, and Marcus Vanarsdel, who is serving 15 years for assault, auto theft and contraband possession.

Thomas escaped from the prison's H Unit in 2001 while serving life plus 400 years for the rape and strangulation murder of an elderly Oklahoma County woman who had hired him to mow her lawn.

He and two other inmates broke out of their cells after the sealed bolts anchoring the toilets to the walls were loosened. Thomas and one of the other inmates were able to scale the razorwire-topped fences.

They then stole a car at knifepoint from two McAlester women and evaded capture for three days.

Boone said Thomas, Wright and Vanarsdel had been digging with homemade tools fashioned from stainless steel shafts removed from oscillating fans.

One of the prisoners had chipped away four inches of concrete from his cell floor, while the other two had ``just scratched the surface,'' Boone said.