Fugitive remains at large

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Fred Carpenter, the Gates County (N.C.) Correctional Center inmate who escaped from a community work squad cleanup crew, is still on the run and believed to be hiding out in Suffolk. With only six months left to serve, he fled the road crew and was allegedly picked up by a woman who had visited him in jail.

That woman, Machelle Gilbert, 29, of Railroad St., Newsomes, was arrested and charged Monday afternoon in Suffolk. She was taken to Western Tidewater Regional Jail., but later released on $500 bond.


Email newsletter signup

The superintendent of the Gates County Correctional Center, Robert Jones, said Gilbert had visited Carpenter in the jail several times.

Carpenter, a 28-year-old former Suffolk resident, was jailed in Gates County for felony larceny and violation of probation. He ran from a work crew while cleaning the roadside in Hertford County, N.C., and was spotted by a Suffolk police officer around 1 p.m. According to the officer, Carpenter was traveling north in a car driven by a woman as they passed through the 1100 block of Carolina Road.

Suffolk Police Information Coordinator Mike Simpkins said Carpenter is believed to have relatives in the vicinity of Whaleyville in the southern end of Suffolk at the North Carolina state line.

Carpenter led police down Route 13, Greenway Road and other narrow, twisting roads surrounding the Whaleyville area. He lost is pursuers as he dumped the vehicle and fled on foot down a wooded path just off Sweatt Road near Great Fork Road.

&uot;He’s in the National Criminal Information Center’s databases and if he turns up anywhere in the United States, he’ll be arrested,&uot; said Simpkins. &uot;It’s a North Carolina case, but of course, the Suffolk Police Department and our officers will be on the lookout for Carpenter.&uot;

According to Larry Balangia, police chief in Winton, N.C., Carpenter was a short-term prisoner who, up until his escape, had been a model inmate. Balangia said Carpenter had earned the right to enter the work force road crew program and was not considered a risk for escape.

The inmate work force is facilitated through the Department of Prisons in North Carolina and, according to Carl Pierce, superintendent of public works in Winton, inmates perform a variety of chores including the roadside cleanups, plumbing and other general maintenance in the community.

&uot;When they make it to this stage, they have earned the right to enter the work force program, said Pierce. &uot;This caught us completely by surprise and up until the escape; he’d been a role model inmate.&uot;

Pierce said this is the first time an inmate has ever run from a work force crew in Winton or Hertford County. He also said there are no changes planned in the program’s security.

&uot;These inmates are not required to be guarded by armed guards since they are on short term incarceration,&uot; said Pierce. &uot;We were doing everything by the book and the inmates are generally trusted, closely monitored, and not expected to make an escape because they are soon to be released.&uot;

Pierce said the North Carolina Department of Corrections makes decisions on when an inmate is ready to return to the community to work under close supervision.

Jones said a judge would decide how much time Carpenter will serve for his escape, but that the escaped inmate would not pull that time in Gates County, a minimum custody facility.

Belangia, Jones and Pierce came to Suffolk Tuesday to discuss Carpenter’s whereabouts with local Police.

&uot;We have very stable information that Carpenter is at a residence in Suffolk,&uot; said Belangia. &uot;I got a call from Suffolk police and they said a caller had advised them of Carpenter’s whereabouts. However, we decided to wait to be sure of his exact location for the personal safety of others at the residence.&uot;

Belangia said that Carpenter may become violent if approached, and he urged people to use caution.

Do not attempt to approach Carpenter, but instead call Suffolk Police at 923-2350, or the Winton Police Department at 252-358-1033, or Winton telecommunications, 252-358-7800.