Wednesday evening Jacksonville police took the woman, 24-year-old Crystal Owen, to the emergency room at RMC Jacksonville because she was complaining of complications related to her pregnancy. Shortly after leaving Owen at the emergency room at 7:15 p.m., an officer returned to check on her and found that she was gone, police said.
“He just said he had a gut feeling and he went back to check with her,” jailer Jonathan Wilbanks said, referring to the officer who drove Owen to the hospital.
Later that evening Owen was spotted at Walmart, where a store camera recorded her getting into a white car, said Bill Wineman, assistant chief of police.
Police said they believe Owen left the jail in three layers of clothes, shed one layer of clothing after entering the bathroom at the hospital and shed another layer of clothing at Walmart.
Wilbanks said Jacksonville inmates don’t wear uniforms and sometimes wear several layers of their own clothing to stay warm because the jail is cool.
Shortly before asking to visit the doctor, Owen learned she would face more charges of negotiating worthless instruments, the legal term for writing bad checks.
Authorities have since issued a warrant for her arrest for escape in the second degree, a felony.
If convicted on the escape charge, Owen could face between one and 10 years in prison, or a $15,000 fee.
When Owen escaped, she was serving the 38th day of a 58-day sentence for violating probation that stemmed from shoplifting charges for stealing from Walmart.
Since entering the Jacksonville jail in late July, Owen had requested medical assistance for her pregnancy five times but has not required medical treatment during any of her visits.
Authorities are required by law to seek medical treatment for inmates who say they have illnesses, but accompanying her to the hospital was demanding too much time from employees, Wineman said. In one instance Wilbanks said he stayed with Owen at the hospital for seven hours after his shift ended to ensure she had supervision while away.
On Aug. 6 municipal Judge Joe Maloney signed a legal document that released Owen to visit the doctor alone.
“When treatment has concluded it will be your responsibility to contact the police department requesting pick up,” the document states. “If you do not return to the jail a felony escape warrant will be issued for your arrest.”
The Jacksonville jail typically holds about five inmates at a time and has six cells.
Wineman said anyone assisting Owen in her escape can be charged with facilitating an escape in the first degree, a felony. Anyone found guilty of that charge can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than $15,000.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.