A 28-year-old accused in the abduction and rape of an 11-year-old West Virginia girl a year ago is on the loose after escaping from an Indiana jail Sunday night.
Joshua Ridings and Larry Miller escaped from the outside recreation area of the Warrick Jail in Boonville, Ind., sometime before 9 p.m., according to a statement by Warrick County Sheriff Marvin Heilman. Miller, who was being held on a sexual misconduct charge, was taken into custody without incident at 12:45 a.m. Ridings, who faces a felony residential entry charge in Indiana and more serious sex assault charges in West Virginia and Kentucky, remains at large.
"Obviously, we assume that he's fled our area and may have fled Kentucky," Heilman told ABC News. "This will certainly come rather quickly to a national manhunt if he's not apprehended."
Jail guards noticed the pair of inmates were missing between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. They passed from an indoor recreation area through an unlocked door into what Heilman said is typically a secure outdoor recreation area. There, they managed to scale a wall.
"Evidence from the recreation area was discovered showing that one inmate was able to boost the other up a wall where he went through stainless steel razor wire and spikes along the roof's edge," according a sheriff's office press release. "The second inmate threw a bed sheet to the first, which was used for the second inmate to scale a wall to the roof also. Both inmates jumped off of the roof."
"It's something I did not foresee as a sheriff," Heilman said, describing how the inmates escaped. "They were able to accomplish it."
It was unclear whether the two escapees had help from other inmates or from family or friends outside the jail, he said.
A sheriff's office dog tracked the scent of the two escapees to the Boonville VFW post, where they allegedly stole a green 2001 Ford Escape. Authorities recovered the vehicle this morning in a high school parking lot in Owensboro, Ridings' hometown, Heilman said.
The FBI and U.S. Marshals, as well as law enforcement agencies in Kentucky and Indiana, are involved in Ridings' manhunt.
In addition to the charges in West Virginia and Indiana, Ridings was also accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Kentucky in August 2006, according to authorities.
Ridings was indicted in January by a federal grand jury in the rape of a child in West Virginia last Feb. 20. Ridings, of Owensboro, Ky., allegedly abducted the girl in Wheeling, W. Va., and raped her in Belmont County, Ohio.
If convicted in the West Virginia case, Ridings could face life in prison, according to a Jan. 8 statement by Sharon Potter, U.S. attorney in West Virginia's northern district.
Ridings' jailbreak Sunday prompted Potter to release a statement cautioning citizens about the accused child rapist.
"We are stunned and distressed at the news of Joshua Ridings' escape from jail in Indiana but are confident that he will soon be apprehended," Potter said. "We have already reached out to the victim and her family to ensure her safety."
Ridings was being held in Indiana because of a detainer filed against him there before the West Virginia indictment. After facing that charge, he was to be transferred to authorities in West Virginia to be prosecuted in the child rape case.
In December 2007, an arrest warrant was issued for Ridings' arrest in the child rape the previous February, after the FBI matched DNA collected from the Wheeling-area crime scene to DNA recovered in the Kentucky sexual assault case.
A barbed wire tattoo on Ridings' arm under the name "Nicole" helped identify the suspect.
Ridings is known for allegedly approaching his victims naked from the waist down. He is described as 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 145 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing an orange inmate jumpsuit and had a full beard.
Until Ridings is captured, Heilman said, there's cause in the area for concern. "He's charged with everything from sexual assault to rape of a young female," Heilman said. "Obviously, he has a lot of motive to stay free and sadly, I'm concerned he'll break the law again during flight."