R.I. detention center to hold security meeting following fugitive escape

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WHDH) – Directors at the Rhode Island detention center where inmate James Morales escaped will hold an emergency security meeting on Thursday to discuss how the fugitive was able to get out.

The warden at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls said the ratio of inmates to guards on the night of Morales’ escape was 17 to one, and guards did not realize he was missing for three and a half hours.

Different official reports reveal conflicting timelines for when the fugitive was able to escape the detention center. The warden said Monday that Morales is believed to have broken out of the facility around 7:00 p.m. the night of New Year’s Eve. He said guards did not notice until 10:30 p.m.

Central Fall Police and U.S. Marshals were notified 1 hour and 13 minutes later, a time period during which guards were conducting head counts of prisoners, according to the warden.

But reports by Attleborough Police, who became involved when Morales allegedly stole a car in the town, say Morales fled the facility at 6:30 p.m., a half hour earlier than the Wyatt Detention Center reported. The stolen car was later found in Framingham, where Morales was last spotted.

Thirty-five-year-old Morales, a former Army reservist, was charged with stealing 16 guns from a U.S. Army Reserve Center in Worcester in 2015 and is also facing child rape charges in Massachusetts.

Framingham resident Venessa Lugo, who sources say lives downstairs from Morales’ ex-girlfriend, encountered the escapee when he knocked on her door the night of his escape.

A reverse-911 call was sent to residents in Framingham, reminding them to be vigilant. Police said they have received several calls of possible sightings of Morales.

Juniper Hill Preschool in Framingham ordered a shelter-in-place Tuesday. Administrators sent a letter to parents explaining this was done due to “external safety concerns in our immediate community.”

“I think it was appropriate, it’s a wooded area,” said parent Andrew Kessler. “Kids need to be safe, I want my son to be safe.”

Officials announced that the search for Morales, now a Massachusetts most-wanted fugitive, has expanded beyond the bay state and Rhode Island.

The Massachusetts State Police website advises readers to not take personal action if you encounter Morales, but to contact authorities:

State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section at (1-800-KAPTURE or 1-800-527-8873), (508-820-2121) or local authorities if you believe you have spotted one of these fugitives.

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