Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2006

Kansas woman ready to return home

March 2, 2006

Ryan Harris

The Daily Post-Athenian

Athens, Tenn.

Toby Young spent most of her life as a law-abiding citizen, volunteering in her community and raising a family. Now, she's accused of helping a convicted killer escape from a Kansas prison and is trying to pick up the pieces of her life while sitting in an 8-foot-by-12-foot jail cell at the McMinn County Justice Center.

The 48-year-old wife and mother of two still can't explain why she helped convicted killer John Manard escape from prison, or why she abandoned her family to spend two weeks on the lam with the murderer.

"I haven't even figured it all out yet," a teary-eyed Young said from inside the McMinn County Justice Center Monday afternoon. "My whole life, I've always done good things. I've never even had a speeding ticket -- well no, I had one speeding ticket. I don't know anything about court stuff."

Authorities say Young, who helped prisoners train dogs for adoption through the Safe Harbor Prison Dogs program, hid the convicted murderer in a pet crate and helped him escape Feb. 12 from the Lansing Correctional Facility. She spent two weeks hiding with the convict in Tennessee, until they were captured Friday in McMinn County.

"I don't know (why I did it)," said Young, who declined to say whether she had a romantic relationship with Manard. "It almost seemed like it wasn't real, but it was."

Young's van wasn't searched when she drove the killer out of the prison in the pet crate, a fact Kansas Corrections officials attribute to a corrections officer's lax adherence to protocol and his familiarity with Young. Though the guard has since been fired, Young said he had every reason to trust her.

"This is pretty not normal for me," she said.

Young's flight from the law ended Friday in northern McMinn County, when Manard crashed their pickup truck on Interstate 75. U.S. marshals and dozens of other law enforcement officials swarmed the area and took Young and Manard into custody.

Manard was taken to Hamilton County. Young was kept in McMinns, however, because Hamilton County doesn't have a women's facility.

Young said she pleaded with Manard to stop the 1997 Chevy Silverado truck he was driving as it was being chased. Authorities had followed them more than 40 miles from a mall in Chattanooga, Tenn., to McMinn County. Manard crashed the Silverado outside Niota, Tenn., as he attempted to cut through a wooden median.

"It was pretty crazy," Young recalled. "I said, 'There is nowhere to go. There is nowhere to go. There is no way to get out of it.'"

Young is still feeling bumps and bruises from the crash.

"I feel pretty bad," Young said. "My chest hurts, my side hurts, my gut hurts, I have scrapes on my head, and this ear is all messed up."

Young said the consequences of being captured never crossed her mind until she saw the sea of blue lights following the Silverado and heard the police helicopters overhead. She had spent two weeks hiding with Manard in a cabin in the remote town of Alpine, between Nashville and Knoxville.

Young said she found the East Port Marina at Dale Hollow Lake on the Internet. She was familiar with Tennessee, having vacationed in Chattanooga and Gatlinburg.

Young said she and Manard ventured Friday into Chattanooga to visit the Tennessee Aquarium and an I-Max theater. They were leaving the Barnes & Noble bookstore near Hamilton Place Mall when U.S. marshals happened to spot them.

In their two weeks as fugitives, Manard and Young accumulated electronics, musical instruments and a parakeet. Items found inside their cabin included cash, a laptop computer, a new printer, jigsaw puzzles, books, a PlayStation, an adult DVD, two new guitars, an amplifier, a mandolin and sheet music to the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"-- the tale of escaped convicts on the run in the South during the Great Depression.

The two also left behind unspecified "sexual items," Deputy U.S. Marshal Danny Shelton said.

Young said Monday she enjoyed the 12 days with Manard. Now that's over.

Monday, she sat in the booking area of the McMinn County Justice Center, wrapped in a blanket, reading the novel, "Patriot Games," in her cell. She wore a black-and-white striped jail uniform. McMinn County Sheriff Steve Frisbie said Young was being kept out of the general jail population because of the publicity surrounding her case.

Young says she is ready to return to Kansas, and, she hopes, salvage her life and the pet program she cherishes.

"I want to go home," Young said. "I'm scared about having to go to prison, to jail. I don't want to. Jail is not fun."

Young and Manard face charges in Kansas related to the escape. A Leavenworth County warrant charging Young with aiding and abetting aggravated escape and aiding a felon was issued Feb. 13. Manard faces escape charges, also in Leavenworth County.

Both Young and Manard waived extradition, and both remained in their Tennessee jails on Wednesday awaiting their return to Kansas.

James Cross, a spokesman for Eric Melgren, U.S. attorney for Kansas, said earlier this week it didn't appear likely that Young or Manard would face federal charges related to the escape.

Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell said it was standard procedure not to release prisoner transportation details.

"Once we do get them back to Kansas, we will certainly let everybody know," he said.

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