Wednesday, December 9, 2009
by KHOU.com Staff
Posted on December 9, 2009 at 6:50 AM
CONROE, Texas—The escaped prisoner who was the focus of a week-long manhunt told a local activist that he had help from the inside. Convicted child rapist Arcade Comeaux said the weapon he used to hijack guards was in his cell for at least three weeks.
Questions still surround the prison system that allowed Comeaux to dupe authorities for years. The supposedly partially-paralyzed man managed to walk away from the guards and right into controversy.
Authorities are asking two questions; why didn’t prison officials realize Comeaux was faking his medical condition, and where did he get the gun?
Local activist Quanell X said Comeaux told him he had help from the inside.
“He named that guard and he also named someone who is involved in medical who had been giving him medical assistance,” Quanell X said.
But prison officials said Comeaux has not shared that information with investigators so there are no arrests at this time.
“This feels like the inmate is running the asylum,” said a former TDCJ staff member who remembers Comeaux clearly.
“He would sit in the food. Of course it would dry and start smelling. He refused to shower, refused to clean himself, basically saying ‘I’m immobile, I need someone to do this for me.’”
The former staff member said Comeaux orchestrated a deliberate campaign of extortion, despite medical reports that he was able to care for himself. He said Comeaux manipulated the system to get health assistance and better housing.
A grand jury on Thursday will hear the case against the convicted sex offender who was captured in northeast Houston Monday morning.
Comeaux is now facing aggravated kidnapping and felony escape charges. He was in custody in the Montgomery County Jail Tuesday, awaiting his hearing. Comeaux, who is currently serving three life sentences, was found when a salesman saw him trying to hitchhike in front of a business on East Little York.
The salesman called HPD, who came and took Comeaux into custody without incident.
Investigators said Comeaux escaped during transport from a prison unit in Huntsville to one in Beaumont.
As the prison van passed through Conroe, investigators said Comeaux pulled out a gun, held two transport guards hostage, handcuffed them in the back of the van, drove the van to Baytown, took the guards’ weapons, put on one of their uniforms and escaped.
Officials launched an extensive manhunt, but Comeaux managed to elude them for seven days before he was captured.
He had been confined to a wheelchair since 1997 when a stroke purportedly left him partially paralyzed, but when he was taken into custody, Comeaux was walking.
He has been in and out of the Texas prison system for 30 years.
Comeaux was first sent to prison in 1979 on three 10-year sentences for rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child and burglary of a building—all out of Harris County. He was paroled four years later.
His parole was revoked and he returned to prison in 1984 to serve a 20-year sentence on a new charge of indecency with a child out of Harris County. He was paroled in 1991 but was in and out of prison for parole violations until 1996.
In June 1998, he was given a life sentence for aggravated sexual assault in Brazos County.
Comeaux was given two extra life sentences after he was convicted of stabbing his wife and another person in 1999. That attack occurred in the Jester III Unit in Fort Bend County when his wife came to visit him. The other person stabbed was a man who tried to stop the attack.
Still, those at the top want to correct the miscommunication between the workers inside prison walls.
“If you are in charge of a prison, and you see there is a disputes between medical’s and correction’s, come to us and ask for laws that would eliminate the controversy, ”said John Whitmire, chairman of the senate criminal justice committee. He is calling for a full investigation of prison and medical staff.
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Sunday, December 6, 2009
(CNN) -- A Texas inmate in a wheelchair, who escaped on foot from two armed guards as he was being transferred between prisons, is now on the U.S. Marshals' list of the 15 most-wanted fugitives.
Arcade Comeaux Jr., 49, "produced a weapon and fired upon two correctional officers, took them hostage and forced them to drive to Baytown, Texas," the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement.
He then put the officers in the back of the van and took their weapons and one of their uniforms, the statement said.
Comeaux was serving three life sentences for aggravated sexual assault and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He escaped Monday during transport from Huntsville, Texas, to Stiles, Texas.
The 6-foot, 200-pound man was shackled and in a wheelchair, "which he had claimed was needed for mobility," Michelle Lyons, director of public information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, said in a statement.
About 45 minutes into the trip, as they were driving through Conroe, 40 minutes north of Houston, the prisoner pulled out a pistol and ordered the guards to drive south to Baytown, east of Houston.
He fired once, but hit no one during the escape about 9 a.m., officials said.
Law enforcement officers found the unharmed officers an hour later.
Comeaux was being transferred so he could be near John Sealy Hospital in Galveston for treatment of the supposed paralysis he had suffered during a reported stroke, officials said.
At least $16,000 in reward money has been offered for information leading to Comeaux's rearrest and a task force of more than 100 investigators is searching for him, focusing on the Houston area, where he grew up and has family.
His escape has led the man who oversees Texas' criminal justice system to call for a shakeup of the prison system.
"I just think enough's enough," said Sen. John Whitmire, the Texas Democrat from Houston who is chairman of the state Senate's Criminal Justice Committee.
"We need a complete shakeup of the leadership of our prison system and/or an outside review by third parties," he told CNN by phone Wednesday. "We just can't have security breaches of this nature."
Whitmire said the guards had failed to pat down Comeaux while he was in his wheelchair and before they began the trip.
"Sure enough, he has a firearm," he said. "The question is, are there others (in the prison system)? I think you have to assume that there are until you find out differently."
So far this year, more than 900 cell phones have been confiscated from the 112 locations that house the state's 158,000 prisoners. "It's pretty rampant," he said.
"I want the director to come forward and tell us what it's going to take" to solve the problem, he said.
John Moriarty, inspector general of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said such lapses are highly unusual in the state's penal system. "We have no open gun investigations other than this one," he said. "The last one was several years ago."
Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston, who has been in the job since 2005, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 6:33 AM