Escaped Winfield Correctional Facility inmate Robert G. Terrell was taken into custody without incident late Sunday morning after he had sat through a service at Silverdale Community Church in rural Ark City.
The 36-year-old had left the correctional facility by jumping a fence on the west side Saturday night. He was declared missing at 9:12 p.m. and an extensive search ensued.
Dianne Goatley immediately recognized Terrell as she walked into church just before the service was to begin Sunday. She had seen his picture on Facebook the night before and had shown her husband a picture of Terrell as the couple got ready for church about 15 to 20 minutes before leaving their home for the service.
“I walked into the church, like I said we’re small and everybody has their own little spot to sit, and this guy was sitting there. I walked through and spoke to everyone and turned to him and said ‘good morning’ or something like that and he responded,” Goatley said. “There’s always those gut feelings, so I put my stuff down and I grabbed my phone. I walked to the back of the church and I motioned to a couple of the guys that were standing there and I said ‘come with me.’ And I was able to get some cell service down there and showed them the picture. I said ‘I think this is that guy.’ And they said ‘oh, man. It is… It is. You better call.’”
Goatley stepped out of the church discretely and made a call to 911. They asked some questions and kept her on the line as authorities were sent to the church. She stayed outside for the entire call.
It took about 45 minutes for law enforcement to arrive, she said, because the search effort had been focused heavily on the north end of the county, not the south.
Numerous personnel arrived from the Cowley County Sheriff’s Dept., Ark City Police Dept. and other law enforcement agencies. They determined that it would be best to let the service end, rather than rush in with some children and older churchgoers in the building.
Inside, Terrell was sitting through the church message, taking communion and singing along, churchgoers told Goatley later. Though there had been a report that Terrell was running around nude, he was in basketball shorts and a plaid shirt as he sat in the church.
He had asked if there was a place to wash up in the church and was able to do that prior to the start of the service. Terrell also appeared to be a little scratched up from a night on the lam.
As members of the small congregation departed the church, just before noon, law enforcement did rush in, weapons drawn and took Terrell into custody.
Goatley told KSOK News she was impressed with the effort by law enforcement and their professionalism.
“That wasn’t on my bucket list, but it’s checked off now,” she said and laughed. “Everything fell into place and I’d just seen his picture. But there was a chill. It was unsettling. My only concern was, would he get suspicious and what would he do.”
Terrell has a 2002 rape conviction for sexual intercourse involving a child less than 14. He also has a conviction for failure to register as a sex offender.
He was currently in prison for violating his parole. It’s not been made clear how Terrell ended up so far away from the correctional facility.
Photo Credit: Fiveprime