UPDATED AT 8:15 P.M.
Crittenden County Jailer Robbie Kirk says three inmates discovered missing during a prisoner transport to the local detention center late this afternoon did not escape in Marion. In fact, Assistant Marion Police Chief Bobby West said the investigation is leading to Illinois.
Three male inmates were found missing from a Prisoner Transport Services of America (PTS) bus around 4:45 p.m. at the jail on West Carlisle Street. A census of prisoners made on the bus after five female prisoners were safely offloaded here for housing revealed three inmates were unaccounted for.
"When they did a head count, they were three short," the jailer said, adding that no inmates booked into Crittenden County Detention Center have escaped.
Kirk added that there no prisoners being sought in Marion or Crittenden County.
The local investigation, including a review of surveillance video from the jail and nearby rescue squad building as well as corroborating interviews with other inmates on the transport, indicates the men were already missing when the bus arrived in Marion. Authorities believe the prisoners, still shackled, escaped at a PTS stop in Benton, Ill.
"As of right now, there is no evidence showing they are here in Marion, Ky.," said West.
West said a McDonald's in Benton was the previous stop for the PTS bus before arriving in Marion. Guards with the transport company purchased lunch orders for 25 prisoners and handed out 25 meals at the restaurant, the officer said, indicating all inmates were accounted for at the time of distribution.
"They were there roughly 15-20 minutes," West said. "There were no stops between Benton and here."
Kirk, a former state police officer, explained the transport bus remains at Crittenden County Detention Center because it is considered part of an active crime scene. And PTS is currently interviewing the remaining 22 inmates, added West.
"They are trying to nail down exactly where they got off," the officer said. "There is nothing to show they are here."
Upon the initial discovery that three inmates were apparently missing, local law enforcement and jail employees began canvassing the immediate area, warning local residents to be wary and lock their doors. But just before 6 p.m., Kirk said there was no longer a full-blown search. He added though, that police continue to patrol and be on the lookout for anything suspicious.
"Local law enforcement has been given names of who is missing and are doing what they should be doing," Kirk said.
Marion Police Chief Ray O'Neal said two of the three escapees are white men and the other is black. All are believed to be handcuffed and shackled.
Any updates to the story will be posted here.