Morgan jail escapee captured in Tennessee

Mar. 7—A rape suspect who escaped from the Morgan County Jail on Sunday by kicking out a window made it to Franklin County, Tennessee, before being captured early Monday morning, according to the Morgan County sheriff.

Family members assisted Hartselle resident Jeremy Taylor, 49, in getting to Tennessee following his escape, Sheriff Ron Puckett said.

“The possibility of someone else being charged is likely,” Puckett said.

The sheriff said Taylor received no assistance from anyone inside the jail.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, investigators and US marshals interviewed more than 20 people as they tried to track Taylor and concluded he was likely in Huntland, Tennessee, 60 miles northeast of Decatur. Taylor was caught by Franklin County, Tennessee, sheriff’s deputies after they received a report of a possible fugitive near Robinson Creek in Huntland.

The Tennessee sheriff’s office was holding Taylor on a fugitive from justice warrant Monday and extradition to Morgan County was pending. Morgan County investigators obtained an arrest warrant for Taylor on a charge of second-degree escape. He will be held on that charge in lieu of $250,000 bond, but he is being held without bond on other charges and is serving a prison sentence for a previous conviction after his probation was revoked.

Puckett said the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office alerted the alleged rape victim, who was 62 at the time of the incident, when Taylor escaped.

“She was aware of everything, and at 1 am (Monday) morning I called and let her know he was captured. We made sure we let the victim know what we were doing,” Puckett said. “We had a vehicle at a residence where she was and it was parked at the residence until he was captured.”

Puckett said the first indication that Taylor had escaped from his first-floor cell came at about 10 to 11 am Sunday.

“It was discovered by medical doing a pill call, distributing medication, and he wasn’t in the cell where he was assigned. They searched the facility, thinking he may have gotten moved to another housing unit and it just wasn’t documented, Puckett said.

The search of the jail was unsuccessful.

“After they did a facility search they went back to his cell and discovered the window could be moved,” Puckett said. “When he got out the window, he shut that thing back up. At first glance it didn’t look like there was anything wrong with the window. That’s why we pretty much believed he was still in the building initially. From the inside, it looked intact.”

Puckett said that at some point since the jail was built additional bunk beds were bolted to the floor in the jail cells.

“Because that bunk bed is in the middle of all these cells, you can lay on that top bunk and kick the window,” Puckett said. “In the 16 years this jail has been here, nobody’s ever kicked a window out. As we are talking, our maintenance guys are moving those beds away from the windows.

“No longer will somebody be able to lay on a bed and kick the window out. They’re right at eye height. So in order to get the windows out in the future they’re going to have to use their hands and not have the bed as leverage.”

The sheriff said inmates have plenty of time to plan an escape.

“You’ve got inmates that all they have is time. They learn how to manipulate people and objects. He just had plenty of time to manipulate that window, unbeknownst to employees,” Puckett said.

What Puckett did not know as of Monday afternoon was how Taylor got past the steel fence that surrounds the jail.

“We’re not exactly sure where he went over the fence. He had to somehow scale the fence. We’ve got cameras back there but there are some blind spots, so we don’t know exactly how he scaled the fence,” Puckett said.

Puckett said contractors were installing razor wire Monday on a gate that didn’t have it at the time of the escape. Contractors were also installing spikes Monday along the fence that runs along First Avenue Northeast. — Rape charge

Taylor has been charged with and convicted of numerous crimes. The most recent charges were for an October 2020 incident that led to his arrest on charges of first-degree rape, sodomy, burglary and kidnapping. Those charges resulted in the revocation of his probation on previous convictions for breaking and entering a vehicle and burglary. Taylor was transferred in September from Bibb County Correctional Facility, where he was serving the remainder of his eight-year sentence, to the Morgan County Jail so that he could attend court proceedings in connection with the rape charge.

According to a search warrant affidavit by Hartselle police, a woman returned to her home after grocery shopping at 9:45 pm on Oct. 7, 2020. She showered and at about 11 pm entered her bedroom and discovered a man she did not know.

“She started screaming but the unknown male placed her in a headlock and told her he would put her to sleep if she wasn’t quiet,” according to the affidavit. “Afterwards, the unknown male raped her for about an hour.”

The man told her to take a shower and when she got out he was gone and she called the police.

The victim later identified the man as Taylor when she saw a mugshot of him on Facebook related to his earlier arrest on a drug charge, according to Hartselle police. DNA samples from the victim’s rape kit matched DNA samples from Taylor, according to police. He was arrested Nov. 15, 2020.

On Dec. 10, 2020, a grand jury indicted Taylor for five felonies: forcing the victim to have sexual intercourse (rape); forcing the victim to perform oral sex (sodomy); forcibly performing oral sex on the victim (sodomy); breaking into the victim’s dwelling to commit a crime (burglary); and abducting the victim to commit sexual abuse (kidnapping).

— or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.

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