Authorities say SUV may hold key to finding inmate
Investigators looking into how a convicted murderer escaped Sunday from Lansing Correctional Facility say the prison volunteer who aided in the escape may have purchased a used SUV and items to alter somebody's appearance in the period leading up to the prison break.
John M. Manard, a 27-year-old serving a life term for the 1996 slaying of a Johnson County man in a carjacking, was discovered missing from the prison Sunday. Authorities believe he was hiding in a dog crate in the Safe Harbor Prison Dogs van when it left the prison. Driving the van, they say, was Toby Young, the 48-year-old president and founder of the Safe Harbor Prison Dogs program.
Both are still at large, and both are described as armed and dangerous.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the prison, Bill Miskell, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, pleaded for the public's help getting information about what's being described as a 1998-2000 gunpowder blue Chevy SUV that Young was seen in recently.
"That may be a vehicle in which she and John Manard are traveling," Miskell said.
Anyone who sold, loaned or gave the vehicle or knows of anyone selling a vehicle matching the description recently is asked to contact their local law enforcement agency or Lansing Correctional Facility.
"That vehicle may be the next key in our investigation of the escape of John Manard," Miskell said.
He also said videotape taken last week at a Kansas City-area store showed Young purchasing black hair dye and an electric razor "in an effort to alter either John Maynard's appearance or her appearance following the escape." Miskell would not identify the store.
Miskell said it was obvious Young was deeply involved in the plan to spring Manard, though he said prison officials still don't know why - whether it was because of a romance or for some other reason.
"I don't have any idea how far back the planning process went, but it's obvious from the information we have been able to develop and confirm so far that this was a well-planned effort on her part to assist in the escape of John Manard," Miskell said.
A warrant charging Young with aiding and abetting aggravated escape and aiding a felon was issued Monday by Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl.
The Safe Harbor van was found Tuesday in a storage shed in Bonner Springs. A co-owner of Ensign Storage Facility said he called authorities about 7 a.m. Tuesday shortly after he heard a report about the prison escape that named Young as a possible accomplice.
"I knew the name as soon as I heard it," said Hank Koch, whose storage business opened two months ago in Bonner Springs, just north of where Kansas Highway 7 and Interstate 70 intersect.
Young had come in to the business a week ago looking to rent space.
"She asked if I had a unit big enough to store a vehicle," Koch said. "I asked, 'What size vehicle?'"
Young told him it was for a van.
Investigators found more clues implicating Young at her home in Piper.
Authorities on Wednesday confirmed two semi-automatic handguns were missing from Young's home, a black 9-millimeter Glock and a silver AMT .380. Authorities also believe that Young is in possession of a substantial amount of cash, in excess of $10,000.
Young's 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."
Since the program was founded in August 2004, Young has been a regular visitor to the Lansing prison's maximum-, medium- and minimum-security areas.
Currently about 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. More than 900 dogs have been adopted through the program.
Manard, at the time of the escape, had been assigned to the prison's medium-security unit. His disciplinary record was such that he had been allowed to participate in the Safe Harbor program for about the past year, authorities said. He had been sentenced to life for the 1996 slaying of Donald England in Johnson County. The killing occurred during a carjacking witnessed by England's wife.
Manard is described as a white male, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, with red/auburn hair and hazel eyes.
Corrections officials said a preliminary investigation into the escape showed several inmates helped move the dog crate in which Manard was smuggled and placed it into the Safe Harbor van. Seven inmates have been placed in "administrative segregation" - isolated in single-person cells for 23 hours a day - while the investigation continues.
Investigators also looked at how the van was able to leave the prison grounds without a thorough search.
"It appears he was assisted in this effort by several other inmates to put him in this crate, into the Safe Harbor prison van," Miskell said.
Although the prison's standard practice is to search all vehicles entering and leaving the facility, that protocol was not followed with the van.
"Those procedures were not followed in this case. Staff have been reemphasized that that policy will be followed in every case," Miskell said
Meanwhile, while there is no sign of Manard or Young, Koch is at the center of the media spotlight. He's been interviewed by print and broadcast journalists from the region about the discovery of the van at Ensign Storage.
Because of Young's question at the time she rented the space, Koch said he felt pretty sure she was an accomplice to Manard's escape.
"She wasn't too smart," Koch said.
Koch said he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary about Young when she rented the unit. She was wearing sunglasses, he said, and seemed like an "average person."
Investigators had to wait for a warrant to search the unit after Koch's call and came to the business about 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Koch said "it was a real circus" once media found out about the warrant.
"They (news media) were running around from storage to storage," he said, not knowing in which Bonner Springs storage facility the van had been found.
Koch said he didn't see the incident as an ill omen for his business but said, "If you know anything about this business, there's a lot of strange things that happen. You don't know who you're renting to."