ATLANTA – The search for two Georgia prisoners sought in the killing of their guards during an escape from a prison bus went into its third day Thursday, and the scale of the manhunt is expanding.
The authorities still don’t know whether Donnie Rowe, and Ricky Dubose are still in Georgia or still travel together, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told reporters on Wednesday.
“They certainly have had time to get out of the state,” Sills said.
Sills said that the two prisoners overpowered and killed Sgt. Christopher, Monica, and Sgt. Curtis Billue beginning of Tuesday on a bus that should have been secured if it was worn detainees between the prisons. The pair then carjacked a driver who pulled up behind the bus, and fled in his Honda Civic down highway 16 in Putnam County, southeast of Atlanta.
Signs of the refugees turned on hour later and 25 miles north, in Madison, where they looted a house, ditched their prison uniforms, and took food and probably clothing. Then they stole a pickup truck from a nearby industrial estate sometime between 6 a.m. Tuesday and 6 p.m. and on Wednesday, Sills said.
That is where the trail goes cold.
The Honda was found Wednesday, deliberately hidden in a wooded area near the house broken into, Sills said. The authorities are asking the public to keep an eye out for the stolen 2008 white Ford F250 pick-up truck with Georgia tag BCX-5372.
The FBI promised a “comprehensive update” on the investigation at a Thursday press conference of the state and the local law enforcement officials in Madison.
In the meantime, Sills appeal to the public to help find the truck and the refugees, and to call 911 immediately if they spot them. He called them violent repeat offenders and highly dangerous, that they are the guards 9 mm pistols.
“They just murdered two corrections officers in a brutal fashion,” Sills said. “They are not concerned with everything related to human life.”
Sills agreed with reporters that Dubose will have trouble hiding his prominent tattoos, including crowns above his eyebrows, a star under his right ear and graffiti-style letters on his neck. Sills said Dubose also has “spirit” tattooed on his right index finger and “face” on his right little finger — signs of membership in the Ghost Face Gangsters.
Rowe, 43, is a lifetime without parole since 2002, and Dubose, 24, began a 20-year sentence in 2015. Both were convicted of armed robberies and other violent crimes. They are cellmates more than once in the Georgian prisons, had known each other for “a long time” and planned to escape together, Department of Corrections Assistant Commissioner Ricky Myrick said.
The other 31 prisoners were interviewed, and a camera on the bus recorded the guards shot, but corrections officials have not explained how the couple managed to get through the normally closed door of the prisoner compartment to the attack of the guards.
“They were in the caged area of the bus,” Sills said. “How they got through the locks and the things which up to that area I don’t know.”
The sheriff said he watched the bus video on a mobile phone, and could not immediately say which prisoner fired the fatal shots.
Monica, 42, and Billue, 58, were both the transfer of sergeants at Baldwin State Prison. Monica had with the Georgia Department of Corrections since October 2009, and Billue since July 2007.
“Officer Billue, the family asks for prayers for all those who are now placing their own life in danger to bring these men to justice, and asks anyone who has information that can help in the detection of these offenders to contact law enforcement,” Jim Green, a lawyer for the Billue family, said in an e-mail Tuesday.
The reward for information leading to the arrest grew Wednesday to $115,000, contributed by multiple agencies, Sills said.