CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) – The detainee who escaped from the Wyatt Detention Center on New Year’s Eve was in prison alongside a man who used a similar method to escape from Wyatt 20 years earlier, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.
In February 1996, Dennis Dussault and four other detainees escaped the Wyatt by cutting an opening in the chain-link roof of the recreational yard. All four were eventually apprehended.
Target 12 has learned Dussault was at the Wyatt in 2016, while James Morales was also there. Morales was apprehended Thursday in Somerville, Massachusetts, after five days on the run.
Federal Bureau of Prisons records show Dussault was released on Dec. 16.
It is unclear if Morales or Dussault ever came into contact. Chris Hunter, a spokesperson for the Wyatt, said prison officials “cannot comment as this is part of the ongoing investigation.”
Federal investigators are examining the coincidence as part of their probe into the New Year’s Eve escape.
That night, Morales, 35, climbed up a basketball hoop and cut an opening into the recreational yard roof, officials say. He then made his way onto the prison roof and down the side of the building.
Morales was at the Wyatt awaiting trial for allegedly to stealing weapons from a Worcester armory. He now faces an additional charge of escape and was ordered held without bail by a federal judge on Friday.
According to a court transcript in the 1996 case, Dussault was sentenced to 20 years for a gun theft case and was given three years for the prison escape.
Three other men were convicted for escape: Paul Lowe, Arthur Doe and Anthony Shea.
In the aftermath of the latest escape, there has been a reduction in the number of inmates being housed at the Wyatt. According to October meeting minutes of the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation – which governs the privately run prison – there were 525 detainees there at that time.
That number has dropped to 462, according to figures supplied by Hunter.
Target 12 has learned the Massachusetts U.S. Marshals Service is reducing the number of inmates they send to the Wyatt in the wake of the escape. Hunter declined to comment on questions regarding the reduction of inmates, referring all inquiries to the U.S. Marshals Service.
Kevin Neal, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts U.S. Marshals, said he could not respond to any questions regarding where inmates are housed.
“The United States Marshals Service does not disclose any personal information, location held, court scheduling, transportation information or other prisoner information to include housing arrangements with our facilities,” Neal wrote in an email.
Luke Gallant, the chairman of the Wyatt board, also did not want to discuss any moves being made by government agencies that use the Wyatt.
“Whatever action the Marshals take, we’re sure it’s in the best interest of the inmates,” he said.
The Wyatt Detention Center depends on revenue from inmates to operate. It went into receivership after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pulled its detainees from the facility following the 2008 death of an inmate suffering from cancer who was allegedly mistreated by staff.
An annual report from 2015 said the Massachusetts U.S. Marshals Service accounted for 51 percent of all detainees at the Wyatt at the time.
After Morales was captured, officials said he would not be returned to the same facility he originally escaped from. Target 12 has learned that Morales is currently being housed at a prison in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
According to an affidavit unsealed Friday, Morales was last seen “going into the recreational yard alone” at 4:26 p.m. on the day he escaped. Then at 6:23 p.m., “Morales was seen on video standing on a basketball hoop in the recreational area.”
The video surveillance then showed Morales was on the roof of the prison at 6:30 p.m., and was scaling down the side of the building 17 minutes later.
The affidavit reveals a bed count of inmates at 10:30 p.m. claimed “all inmates were accounted for.” But 30 minutes later the same officer who conducted the bed count checked again and “realized that Morales was not in his cell.”
A Massachusetts State Police K-9 tracked Morales’s scent along train tracks that lead away from the prison, and prison attire was located there, the affidavit says.