County Jail Closes After Inmates Escape

The Yell County Jail has closed its doors. That’s after three inmates escaped earlier this week by allegedly overtaking one of the jail’s guards.

Deputies searched for ten hours before finding the trio hiding out  in a house about two blocks from the jail they escaped from late Sunday.

“They made their way down on the river bank, hid in a wooded area down there until after dark and then after that, two of them made their way down to a vacated house about two blocks from the jail,” Yell County Sheriff Bill Gilkey said.

A judge set their bond at $1,000,000 each Monday (March 18).

The three who escaped are Bret Cooksey, Seth Chowning and Jacqueline Stobaugh, according to Gilkey.

Although the three inmates are back behind bars now, Gilkey says the jail is not adequately staffed. He said he’s asked for additional funding for the jail since 2007, after it was recommended that two guards be on duty at all times.

“It’s very frustrating,” Gilkey said. “It’s something that we deal with on a daily basis because we are given a limited budget to work with.”

However, the quorum court has not filled that request citing budget constraints.

“We’ve filed reports with them and with the circuit clerk with the needs that needed to be addressed and that’s in their hands,” Gilkey said.

As for the three who escaped, their formal charges including battery in the 2nd degree, escape, kidnapping, theft of property, terroristic threatening and impairing the operation of a vital public facility are expected to be filed against them according to Gilkey.

A pretrial date has been set for 9 a.m. on May 9 in Yell County Circuit Court in Dardanelle before Judge Jerry Don Ramey.

Cooksey and Chowning are accused of locking a jailer in a cell, according to authorities. They then let Stobaugh out of her cell.

Chowning and Stobaugh were being held in the jail for battery charges, while Cooksey was being held for robbery charges.

Sheriff Gilkey said he is thankful for the area law enforcement officers and agencies that assisted with the captures.

“We are proud of the job he did,” Gilkey said, talking about the deputy who was overpowered. “He did everything that he could humanly possible and we are certainly mostly ecstatic with the fact that he wasn’t hurt any worse than he was.”

The details surrounding the escape is part of an ongoing investigation.

Information from Today’s THV was used in this report.

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