Tennessee Death Row Woman's Escape Plot Foiled

PHOTO: Christa Gail Pike, Donald Kohut and Justin Wesley are shown. Authorities in Tennessee say Kohut and Wesley, one a former prison guard, have been arrested in a plot to break out Tennessees lone female death row inmate, Christa Gail Pike.
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Authorities in Tennessee have foiled an escape plot by the state's only female death row inmate.

Two men, including one former prison guard, have also been arrested in connection with the plan.

Justin Heflin and Donald Kohut were arrested this week and charged with planning the escape of Christa Gail Pike.

Pike, 36, was sentenced to death in March of 1996 for murdering 19-year-old Colleen Slemmer in Knoxville, in 1995. She is also serving time for attempting to murder a fellow inmate in 2004, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Today, all three are behind bars.

"Interrupting a plot like this before the escape is attempted is crucial to keeping Tennesseans safe," the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Mark Gwyn said in a news release. "The last thing law enforcement wants is a dangerous fugitive on the streets."

Heflin, 23, worked as a correctional officer at the Tennessee Prison for Women until he was terminated on March 5, 2012. In February, a grand jury indicted him on charges of bribery, official misconduct, conspiracy to commit escape and facilitation to commit escape. Heflin is currently being held in Davidson County Jail on a $75,000 bond.

The third member of the alleged escape-planning trio was Kohut, 34. He met Heflin on one of his frequent trips to the prison to visit Pike. He was arrested Monday morning and is being held at the Hunterdon County Department of Corrections on a $250,000 bond. He has been charged with counts of bribery and conspiracy to commit escape.

Authorities initiated the investigation after receiving information about the escape plan. They found contraband evidence within the jail and discovered that Heflin might be involved. The investigation revealed that he had been receiving gifts and money for his assistance in plotting the escape, the release said.

"Our mission of operating safe and secure prisons is our main focus and we will continue to examine and follow every lead to accomplish our mission," Commissioner Derrick D. Schofield said in a statement.

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