By Christopher Zoukis
A convicted murderer’s brazen escape from an Illinois jail was aided by a former guard who provided him with information that “substantially assisted him,” as well as apparent incompetence among jail staff, according to the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Office.
Kamron T. Taylor, 23, made a bid for freedom from the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee in the early hours of April 1, 2015.
The 5’9”, 170 pound Taylor had overpowered and choked unconscious a 10-year veteran guard with military experience. Wearing the guard’s uniform and using his keys, Taylor passed through at least three sets of doors after camera verification by control room staff. He then used the guard’s key fob to find the guard’s Chevrolet SUV in the parking lot, and drove away with a .38 handgun that had been left in the vehicle.
Taylor was being held at the jail awaiting sentencing after he was found guilty of first-degree murder in February 2015, stemming from a 2013 shooting during a botched robbery.
According to authorities, Taylor’s 3 a.m. escape was assisted by former jailer Tonya D. Grant, 50, who was Taylor’s aunt. Grant was charged with obstruction of justice and aiding in escape; she was accused of providing Taylor with information about jail protocols.
At a news conference after the escape, Kankakee County Sheriff Timothy Bukowski speculated that “someone didn’t do their job properly.” He later admitted that Taylor was able to abscond by hiding in the jail at lockdown and surprising the guard making his rounds hours later. “That’s where the big mistake happened. Someone missed that. And from that point on, things broke down.”
Taylor’s flight from custody ended three days later when he was arrested in Chicago on a “suspicious person” report, and was found carrying a loaded .38 and ID under a false name. Fingerprints and distinctive tattoos led to his identification.
Taylor’s dramatic escape from the jail was not his first attempt. During his trial, he tried to flee the courthouse after the verdict was read, but was wrestled down by deputies and bailiffs. He also escaped briefly following his 2013 arrest, but was recaptured several blocks away. Remarkably, Sheriff Bukowski told reporters that Taylor’s escape history and propensity for violence did not necessarily warrant stricter security measures at the jail.
“It raises an alert, I guess,” Bukowski said, “But you figure the people that are locked up in our facility aren’t altar boys and you take certain precautions for all of them. And you can’t get complacent with anybody ... especially a murderer.”
After he was recaptured, Taylor was sentenced to 107 years in prison in May 2015. Prior to sentencing, prosecutors advised the court that he was also suspected in another Kankakee murder and another robbery. He had not been charged with either of those crimes.
In her sentencing remarks, Kankakee County Circuit Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliott addressed Taylor, calling him “extremely dangerous” and beyond reform. “I have to keep the community protected,” she said when committing him to more than a century behind bars.
In December 2015, the obstruction charges filed against Grant were dropped by prosecutors. In a terse statement, Assistant State’s Attorney Ed Pentuic said the state was “unable to prove the allegation and therefore dismissed the case.”
As reported by the Kankakee Daily Journal, Kankakee County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ken McCabe stated another individual was set to face discipline related to the escape, but that person had since left the sheriff’s office and taken employment elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Taylor remains incarcerated in an Illinois state prison. His projected parole date is December 25, 2123.
Sources: www.daily-journal.com, www.cnn.com, www.chicago.suntimes.com, www.dailymail.co.uk, www.chicagotribune.com
This article original appeared in Prison Legal News on March 9, 2017.