Four men held in central Georgia jail escaped and a search is underway, sheriff says

Oct 16, 2023, 2:39 PM

CORRECTS BY REMOVING REFERENCE OF ESCAPED INMATES FLEEING IN THE VEHICLE This image provided by the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office shows a blue Dodge Challenger outside of a central Georgia jail. Authorities are looking to talk to the driver of the blue Dodge Challenger for possible involvement in the escape. (Bibb County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

(Bibb County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

MACON, Ga. (AP) — Four men detained in a central Georgia jail escaped through a damaged window and a cut fence early Monday morning, authorities said.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis identified the four as Joey Fournier, Marc Kerry Anderson, Johnifer Dernard Barnwell and Chavis Demaryo Stokes.

During a news conference Monday, Davis said that jail staff noticed a break in the perimeter fence around 6 a.m. After watching video footage, they discovered the four men were able to escape via a window in a second-floor dayroom and then through the fence around 3:30 a.m., he said.

“They could be anywhere,” the sheriff said, adding that he was not aware of any connections between the men before they entered the jail and doesn’t know whether they stayed together once they escaped.

Video footage also showed a blue Dodge Challenger that had been just outside the jail earlier in the night and appeared to show someone tampering with the fence. That person then brought some items into the enclosed area, and the sheriff said investigators believe the items were used to help the men escape. He did not say what the items were.

Davis said it’s not clear whether the four men left the jail in that car or in another vehicle or whether they left on foot, but authorities would like to speak to the driver of the Challenger.

Local, state and federal authorities are searching for the four men in what the sheriff called an “all hands on deck situation.” They’re asking anyone who has information regarding their whereabouts to get in touch with the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office or Macon Regional Crime Stoppers. A $1,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the recapture of the men.

The sheriff’s office provided descriptions of the four men:

Fournier, 52, is a white male with gray hair and blue eyes who is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds. He was being held on a murder charge after he was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend in February 2022, according to local news outlets.

Anderson, 24, is a Black male with dreadlocks and is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 165 pounds. He is charged with aggravated assault.

Barnwell, 37, is a Black male with braids and is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 190 pounds. He was being held for the U.S. Marshals Service on drug charges.

Stokes, 29, is a Black male with short black hair and is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. He was being held on charges of possession of a firearm and drug trafficking.

Fournier and Anderson did not have attorneys listed in online court records. An attorney listed for Stokes did not immediately respond Monday to an email seeking comment about the charges against him and the alleged escape. An attorney for Barnwell said he didn’t have any comment.

“Right now my focus is getting these individuals back in the jail, and we’ll dissect what happened and fix that as we go forward,” Davis said.

Sometimes the dayrooms are not locked at night, but that it’s not typically an issue because detainees are supposed to be in bed in another part of the jail, Davis said. He said they’re looking into how the men were able to get into the dayroom.

At the time of the escape, there were fewer than 10 people working at the jail, which houses “a little over 800 detainees,” the sheriff said. Ideally, there would be 30 people working per shift, but they haven’t had staffing levels like that for a long time, and sometimes it’s as few as six or eight people, Davis said.

Staffing isn’t the only issue, he said. The 43-year-old jail is “falling down on us” and the escape happened in the oldest and most rundown part of the jail, Davis said.

He said an internal investigation will determine what exactly led to the escape: “We’re going to drill down into what happened last night.”

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Four men held in central Georgia jail escaped and a search is underway, sheriff says