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Boozy prison break ends in Tampa

Published April 27, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - Two state prison inmates who escaped a work detail in Hernando County by stealing a state vehicle were captured in Tampa on Thursday afternoon after three hours of beer-soaked freedom ended in a short chase and a traffic wreck.

Sumter Correction Institution inmates Timothy Hurtt, 40, and Rusty Johnson, 35, took a green Division of Forestry pickup truck from a work site off U.S. 41 north of Brooksville.

Department of Corrections officials noticed the pair were missing after an 11:45 a.m. head count. An air and ground search of the area by law enforcement officers from Hernando, Citrus and Sumter counties came up empty.

Hurtt and Johnson fled to the home of a relative of the one of the men on east 21st Avenue in Tampa. A nosy neighbor's curiosity led to their capture.

J.D. Callaway, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, said the neighbor walked over to the home and began talking to the inmates, who were hanging out and drinking beer.

Dressed in their blue and white striped uniforms, the inmates told the neighbor they had just escaped from prison and they weren't going back, authorities said.

The inmates changed into street clothing and the neighbor walked home to call 911.

When deputies arrived shortly after 2:30 p.m., the men fled in the Forestry pickup. They drove 2 miles before crashing into a utility pole at 52nd Avenue and Broadway Avenue. Both men were injured and were taken to a hospital.

Hurtt was sentenced to 10 years in 1997 on burglary and grand theft charges out of Hillsborough County. Johnson was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1995 on aggravated assault charges from Brevard County.

Hurtt and Johnson face new charges of escaping from custody and fleeing and eluding.

[Last modified April 27, 2007, 00:56:18]

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