Escaped Cons Pressed Their Luck

Sources: inmates captured on casino surveillance

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Sources say surveillance video at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City recorded at least one of the men who escaped from prison last Sunday.

    The Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Ind. is the "in" spot for tourists and nearby residents, and it appears to have been one of the first stops made by three convicts who escaped from the Indiana State Prison last Sunday.

    Police sources tell NBC Chicago that surveillance video shows Charles Smith, a convicted murder, walking in the casino's deli where it's believed he ordered two eclairs and two waters.  Smith was captured on Monday near Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's vacation home in Grand Beach, Mich.  When arrested, Smith had on him $1,300 in cash, a wristwatch and several wedding rings, sources said.

    All week there have been sightings of the other two escapees, 46-year-old Mark Booher and 45-year-old Lance Battreal, but so far no arrest.

    Indiana Department of Corrections Commissioner Edwin Buss said Wednesday that the trio escaped through tunnels that service the 149-year-old prison, and that three correctional officers assigned to supervise the inmates as they worked in the tunnels may have been negligent.  The correctional officers have been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation, though Buss said there's no reason to believe the guards were aware of the escape plans or were accomplices to them.

    Police now believe that a fourth former inmate, Paul Komyatti, may have helped the men escape.  Komyatti was paroled in May and was also seen at the casino on Sunday. Investigators said they think he left clothes and cash for the prisoners underneath a bridge steps from the casino.  Komyatti has been arrested for violating his parole.

    New questions have also arisen about the Indiana State Prison's alert system.  Prison officials said it took more than two hours to take a head count of the prison's inmates and verify the escape.  But at least one neighboring police department said it did not receive any alert until 4 pm Sunday, six hours after that discovery.

    The Indiana State prison said it is re-evaluating all of its procedures.  The tunnels have now been secured, and the prison remains on lockdown.

    Residents with any information about the escape or the escapees should contact authorities.  Tips can be submitted by calling a toll-free, anonymous hotline -- 1-800-78CRIME -- or online at www.wetip.com.  If the information leads to the felons' capture, the tipster could receive up to $6,000.