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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Escape attempt unravels
There was more than just a hole in cell A316. Deputies needed X-rays to find it all.
By JAMAL THALJI
Published July 22, 2007
A vest made from a blue jail coveralls, allegedly so that inmate John Allen Ditullio Jr. could walk away in civilian clothing to avert suspicion.
[Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
John Allen Ditullio Jr., 21, was charged with attempted escape, a second-degree felony.
LAND O'LAKES - The jail cell might have had everything needed to get out of one.
Smuggled saw blades were used to breach the cell. Torn sheets were made into a rope. Then, once past the walls, fences and sentries, the final touch:
Blue jail coveralls were torn to look like regular clothes - shorts and a vest.
Just about the only thing missing was a Shawshank Redemption-style narrator.
The plot to escape the Land O'Lakes jail was hatched earlier this year, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, by one of its most notorious residents: John Allen Ditullio Jr.
The last time the neo-Nazi held something sharp in his hands, authorities say, he slashed and stabbed two, killing one.
A May 14 tip sent deputies swarming into the Alpha pod to foil the escape plot. The investigation that followed details the illicit ingenuity of inmates.
"Sometimes they can be very crafty," said Capt. Ed Beckman, who runs the sheriff's jails.
He has a word for it:
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Ditullio shared two things with fellow inmate Lawrence Kenneth Tener: cell A316 and first-degree murder charges.
Ditullio, 21, went from newest member of a white supremacist sect to its most infamous when he was arrested last year in the Teak Street stabbings. Patricia Wells survived, but Kristofer King did not.
Tener, 23, was accused of fatally beating Tammy Lee Bowles with an axe handle in 2004.
Only Ditullio was later charged with attempted escape, a second-degree felony that is the least of his legal woes. But the confidential informant who unraveled the plot said the two worked together.
He told deputies Ditullio and Tener spent a week in May cutting the hole behind the metal toilet, according to a sheriff's report. They wrapped the blades with shirts to protect their hands.
It was loud, the informant said, though most other inmates later denied hearing anything.
The informant said both men said why they were doing it: They didn't want to go to prison.
Neither did the informant.
His identity was withheld by the Sheriff's Office for fear of retribution. He tried to use this information to make a "deal" on his own pending escape charge.
Like his own escape attempt, that didn't work, either.
- - -
After deputies were tipped off, inmates were evacuated from the 300 block of Alpha. First out where the "red dot" inmates. The most dangerous inmates, they wore red, not blue, coveralls.
Other inmates like Ditullio and Tener were sent out to be strip-searched. A deputy asked Ditullio what was going on.
"I was trying to escape," Ditullio said, according to the report. "Oh, I mean an alien was cutting a hole in the side of my toilet."
There was a lot more than just a hole in A316. Deputies needed an X-ray machine to find everything.
The hole was 18 by 7-1/2 inches. A section of the stainless steel toilet had been sawed through and peeled back from the concrete wall. The hole led to a crawl space behind the cell, the pipe chase.
A 22-foot "rope" made from torn sheets twisted into braids and tied together was found in the top bunk - Tener's bunk.
"(It) would have assisted the suspect in climbing down the pipe chase," the report said.
The remnants of jail suits were found in both bunks, altered to look like civilian togs. More sheets were hidden in the beds.
The vent above the sink was cut on the bottom, allowing it to swing open into the pipe chase. Toothpaste sealed the vent. Deputies could not say whether this was part of the escape - or just a cubby hole.
Inside the cramped pipe chase were toilet paper rolls, books, towels, a 6-foot "rope" and two more jail suits.
Some plastic pipes had been cut. But with what?
- - -
The cell wall had been breached, but metal bars and pipes behind the toilet prevented escape. Deputies, though, don't think Ditullio just gave up.
"There was no evidence to support that he had stopped trying," sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said, but he would not elaborate.
The blades weren't found until May 15, the report said, when Ditullio came clean.
"You've always been straightforward with me," Ditullio told a deputy. He said the blades were hidden in a floor sink in the pod's common area. Another was found in the bottom of the air vent in his cell.
Altogether, three hacksaw blades and one jigsaw blade were recovered.
Ditullio said he found the blades the week before.
"But he would not say where they came from or who they came from," the report said.
The next day, May 16, Ditullio confessed.
"I owned the hacksaw blades, I cut the toilet," Ditullio said, according to the report, "and I was trying to haul a-- outta here."
He said his cellmate Tener had nothing to do with it - even if the rope was in Tener's bunk.
"As a matter of fact," Ditullio said, "he even tried to stop me."
Tener wouldn't talk. All he said was: "It is what it is."
Investigators recommended he not be charged - not until forensics checks the blades for evidence that could link him.
That's because the investigation is continuing.
- - -
Ditullio and Tener, no longer cellmates, now have this in common: Both are "red dot" inmates.
Both have pleaded not guilty to murder charges and await trial.
The Sheriff's Office would not comment on several aspects of this case. How serious an escape attempt was this? How close did it come to fruition? What physical and human barriers could have prevented an escape?
One question the Sheriff's Office wishes it could answer: How did Ditullio get the blades?
Was it an inside job? Were they smuggled in from the outside?
Beckman, the detention captain, has spent most of his 22 years in detention. He called all this ingenuity a waste.
Why can't they just get jobs, he asked, or "use their brains for something other than committing crimes?"