Inmate Escape Caught on Tape

A man serving 40 years for murder escapes from a Huntsville jail.

July 8, 2011, 4:18 PM

July 9, 2011 — -- Inmates attacked four correction officers in Huntsville, Texas -- about 70 miles north of Houston -- allowing 29-year-old convicted murderer Trent Archie to escape.

Archie and fellow inmate Davis McLeskey, 23, had asked officers if they could use the phones near the Walker County Jail booking office because they each needed to make a collect call hours before dawn.

According to police, Archie said it was easier to reach his mother in the early morning before she left home to deliver newspapers.

On June 28, the correction officers on the overnight shift agreed to let Archie and McLeskey use the phones, something other inmates had done several times in the past.

"The staff was trying to be compassionate," said Walker County jail administrator Captain Steve Fisher.

On surveillance video, both men appeared to be talking on the phones for several minutes with their heads down, although police now say McLeskey wasn't actually talking to anyone.

Then, around 2:50 a.m., the video showed one of the jailers opening the door to the booking office to go check on another male inmate. And that's when Archie and McLeskey stormed in. They punched and kicked the correction officers, including three women.

The jailers "didn't quit, they didn't give up," Fisher said, adding none of the four correction officers on duty violated jail protocol. "The females fought just as hard as anybody and I'm proud of them for that."

The women got bruises all over their bodies and the male jailer was hospitalized with a head injury but is now back on the job.

McLeskey lost his shirt during the struggle and ended up in handcuffs. But Archie ran out the door and escaped by jumping over a gate. Police found and arrested him at a home in southwest Houston on July 1.

His mother, Jacqueline Archie, and his two girlfriends, LaToya Wright and Laquieta Welch, were also arrested and charged with withholding information that could have led to Archie's capture. They were all eventually released on bail.

"We're going to do our best to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Fisher. "I don't want anybody hurt, including inmates."

Now, he said, inmates will no longer be moving around in the middle of the night unless there is a medical emergency.

Fisher says the jail, which is 30 years old, needs a better layout.

Right now, he said, the booking office is also the control room. Modern-day jails ensure the inmates -- and the public -- are far away from any keys or monitoring systems.

Jailbreaks have happened before in Walker County. There have been at least seven escapes in the 22 years Fisher has worked with the sheriff's department, Fisher said.

"Jail is out of sight, out of mind until there's a big problem," he said.

In the '90s, metal sheeting was placed all the way around the building to help prevent escapes. But since then, there haven't been any major improvements.

Even so, the Walker County Jail, which is inspected yearly by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, is one of 47 Texas county jails in compliance with Texas minimum jail standards for five consecutive years, Fisher said.

Walker County Sherriff Clint McRae told ABC News affiliate KTRK, "We are fortunate to pass inspection each year, but we were grandfathered. There needs to be some other security measures in place and that all right now is actually being analyzed."

Archie had been serving 40 years for murder and McLeskey had been in jail since December 2010 for burglary, unauthorized use of a vehicle and parole violations.

Fisher said Archie, who has been charged with escape, could face more charges. He is currently being held by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. McLeskey was charged with three counts of assault on a public servant.

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