Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Piper woman, 48, suspected of helping murderer escape

February 16, 2006

Investigators looking into how a convicted murderer escaped Sunday from Lansing Correctional Facility are painting a picture that is focusing more and more on the president of the Safe Harbor Prison Dogs program.

Officials with the Kansas Department of Corrections now say they believe 27-year-old John M. Manard, serving a life sentence for a 1996 murder, 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.

The trail implicating Young in Manard's escape doesn't stop with Young driving the van out of the prison. It involves a positive identification of Young at the storage facility where the van was hidden after the escape. And weapons and cash are missing from Young's house.

Enough evidence linked Young to the escape that Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl on Monday issued a warrant charging her with aiding and abetting aggravated escape and aiding a felon.

The 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 into 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 mm Glock and a silver .380-caliber AMT. 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 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.More than 650 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 a 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" while the investigation continues.

Investigators also looked at how the van was able to leave the prison grounds without a thorough search.

"Although Lansing Correctional Facility's policy is that all vehicles entering and leaving the facility are to be searched, that protocol was not properly adhered to upon the van's departure from the facility Sunday. Measures have been taken to re-emphasize the necessity for this protocol to be strictly enforced," a news release issued Wednesday by the prison 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 van's discovery.

"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."

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