A week after the apprehension of the “Texas Seven” fugitives, all six members of a gang that busted out of an Alabama prison are back in custody.
Five of the fugitives were caught this morning in the woods in Dickson County, Tenn., 165 miles from the prison. Three members of the gang were caught just before sunrise, and an hour later two others were nabbed.
The sixth escapee was surrounded under a bridge after a passerby noticed him crouching there, The Associated Press is reporting.
Police admitted that the arrests came after a stroke of luck — two sheriff's deputies' search for someone who stole a street sign led them to the site of the fugitives' bivouac by a creek.
When the deputies approached the men, they bolted into the woods. But the officers checked the license plates on a car parked nearby and found the green 1997 Chrysler had been stolen in Alabama and was the car the fugitives were believed to be using.
That brought down an intensified search, complete with tracking dog Chaos. The first three were caught around 3 a.m. and the other two were brought in an hour later.
Officials said they believe that all six of the fugitives were still together.
"We are continuing to aggressively look for the remaining suspect," FBI special agent Jim Cleaver said. "The task force will remain here until the matter is resolved."
Authorities first became aware that the fugitives were in the area when three of them were identified on a surveillance tape at a convenience store, where they were buying shampoo and bologna sandwiches.
Tennessee Department of Safety Officer Dana Keeton identified the first three who were arrested as convicted murderers Steve Murphy, 45, and O.C. Borden, 33; and Billy Gamble, 24, who was convicted of robbery. They then rounded up Jack Allred, 43, who was serving life without parole for robbery, and James McClain, 35, who was serving 20 years for burglary.
Gary Scott, 31, was still at large. He was serving a life sentence without parole for murder.
Investigators found shotguns, several crude knives and an empty pistol holder in the car, FBI agent Phil Thomas said. None of the fugitives had any weapons when they were arrested, so it was feared that Scott might have the pistol.
Escape Under Electric Fence
The five who were already in custody were being taken to Nashville, where they were expected to go before a federal court judge for an extradition hearing.
"We're very, very pleased about the apprehension, of course, of these five inmates, and we're waiting in anticipation now for news of capture of the sixth," said Michael Haley, Alabama prison commissioner. "We feel confident that he will be captured. We just don't know how soon, and of course the sooner the better."
The second high-profile prison break in two months has drawn attention to problems at the Alabama prison, which Haley and employees of the facility say is woefully understaffed.
Law enforcement officials said the escapees used a broom handle to slither under a 5,000-volt electrified fence, and somehow made their way around two other razor-wire fences at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, north of Birmingham.
They escaped some time early Tuesday evening, and their absence was not discovered during the 8 p.m. head count. The fugitives were considered dangerous, and officials warned that they might have weapons.
A Fence That Failed, An Empty Guard Tower
Haley said the escape wouldn't have happened if the prison had been properly staffed, but added that failures in the security system also contributed.
The prison, which houses 1,300 convicts, is staffed by just 188 guards, though there should be at least 250, Haley said. Because of the shortage, the guards are forced to rely too strongly on electronic surveillance and an alarm system.
He suggested that the convicts should not have been able to get through the electric fence using a wooden broom handle.
According to The Associated Press, corrections officers at the facility say it is so severely understaffed that the six passed a guard tower — with no guard in it.
Also, an alarm that was supposed to sound if anyone manipulated the electrical fence did not trigger.
"Obviously, it didn't function as it was supposed to," Haley was quoted as saying.
The Associated Press is also reporting that two of the six may have robbed an RV park store in Floyd County, Ga., and pistol-whipped the park's manager on Wednesday afternoon.
John Wallace, the manager of the park, was "beaten pretty bad" with a .45-caliber pistol "and was probably left for dead," Floyd County Police Chief Jim Free told The Associated Press.
After receiving treatment for the beating at Redmond Regional Medical Center,Wallace identified Scott and Gamble from a photo lineup, the FBI said.
ABCNEWS affiliate WKRN in Nashville contributed to this report.