Former Army reservist escapes detention center in Rhode Island

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) – State, local and federal authorities are searching for a man who escaped from the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls Saturday evening.

According to U.S. Marshal Jamie Hainsworth, 35 year-old James Walker Morales was discovered to be missing from his cell at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Morales was last accounted for at 7 p.m. that night.

Former U.S. Marshal and Rhode Island State Police Colonel Steven O’Donnell said prison guards likely counted inmates at 7 p.m. and then allowed them to go to recreational activities or programs, where Morales may have been able to slip away.

“Did the inmate hide somewhere and then make his way out a window or to  the roof and shimmy their way down the roof and into the yard and climb a fence?” asked O’Donnell. “Did they have help? Did they have help from other inmates is he the only one involved or did he have help from someone on the inside?”

According to police, Morales, originally from Cambridge, Mass., apparently climbed a fence topped with razor wire to escape and injured himself in the process.

Massachusetts State Police believe Morales fled north into Attleboro, where a State Police dog was able to follow a partial trail to an I-95 overpass near the state line. At the end of the trail, police found bloody prison clothing. The track ended abruptly and police think Morales might have gotten into a car there.

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Investigators think Morales stole a green Chevrolet Lumina from the parking lot of BK Mart on Washington Street in Attleboro sometime Saturday night. On Sunday night, Massachusetts State Police recovered the car in an undisclosed location, but had not yet apprehended Morales.

A store clerk at the BK Mart tells Eyewitness News the car was stolen around 7:30 p.m. The clerk said a customer had come into the store when she saw someone backing up her car in the parking lot. The customer ran outside, but the person behind the wheel was already speeding northbound down Route 1. The clerk said police are reviewing the store’s surveillance tapes.

Morales was being held at Wyatt in connection with the alleged theft of 16 rifles and pistols from an Army Reserve armory in Worcester in 2015.

“The police want to find this person,” said O’Donnell. “There’s a reason he’s incarcerated.”

Morales is described as standing about six feet tall, weighing about 175 pounds, with brown skin and black hair. He is believed to have been hurt by the razor wire while escaping from the Wyatt facility. Police said he has an eagle tattoo on the left side of his neck and was bald at the time of his escape.

State Police said he has connections to Cambridge, his home, but also Framingham and New York City. Anyone with any information on his whereabouts or thinks they have seen him should call 911 immediately.