UPDATED, 6:04 p.m. Wednesday.
Police captured the workhouse escapees at about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday. Police found them inside a vacant house in the 5900 block of Wabada Avenue. They were arrested without incident.
ST. LOUIS • Police are searching for two teenagers who escaped early today from the medium-security jail known as the St. Louis Workhouse.
One of the teens was awaiting trial for murder. The other is accused of shooting two men.
The jail, officially called the Medium Security Institute, is at 7600 Hall Street, north of downtown.
They escaped sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. Wednesday. Authorities say the teens created a ruse to escape. They flooded their cells by stopping up the toilets, then were moved to a lobby area inside the jail wing.
But in a violation of protocol, jail staffers instructed the teens to clean the mess themselves and their cell doors were not secured in the meantime, said Eugene Stubblefield, superintendent of the city's Division of Corrections.
At some point, a corrections officer monitoring the area took a bathroom break, and another officer did not respond to take his place, Stubblefield said. The teens reached an exterior door and escaped through a window they broke.
They then scaled a fence topped with razor wire. The amount of blood that officials found along the fence line and on discarded bloody shirts leads Stubblefield to believe the escapees suffered significant injuries. They then managed to scale or crawl beneath two other fences, Stubblefield said.
"I'm angry and frustrated by the evidence of significant breaches in our security protocols," Stubblefield said at a press conference this morning.
Stubblefield is trying to determine if someone on the inside helped them escape. "There's too many inconsistencies in the stories" from the staffers, Stubblefield said. At 11 a.m. Wednesday, no employee had been put on leave or otherwise reprimanded, but that could change as the internal investigation learns more, he said.
The first escapee is identified as Eric Glenn Gray, 17. He is described as a black man who is 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds. He is resident of Collinsville.
The second escapee is identified as Kurt Michael Wallace, 17. He is described as a black man who is 5-foot-5, 110 pounds and wearing a brown work uniform. He is a resident of St. Louis County.
Gray was being held at the workhouse while he waits to go on trial for murder, which was tentatively set for September.
The murder was from March 20, 2009. Gray is charged with shooting Alvin Williams, 18, of the 4500 block of Tennessee Avenue. Williams was found shot in the chest in a bathroom of a home on Tennessee.
Court documents show that Gray's lawyer asked a judge in February if Gray could remain locked up in the workhouse on Hall Street rather than be moved to the St. Louis City Justice Center while he waits for trial. The judge went along with that request.
Wallace was awaiting trial on assault charges.
Gray and Wallace were both certified to stand trial as adults.
Stubblefield, the city's corrections chief, said Wallace and Gray had been in the jail's administrative segregation area at the Workhouse, kept away from the general population because they had been causing trouble.
Stubblefield said the teens should have been transferred to the St. Louis Justice Center, a maximum-security facility which usually houses the most violent offenders, when they turned 17. Stubblefield said they remained at Hall Street because of the court orders. No adult charged with murder is housed at the MSI, he said.
St. Louis Police Capt. Ed Kuntz said the several city police units are looking for the duo. They are researching their background to figure out where they would likely be. Police say they are assuming the teens are still in the metro area.
Time was lost, though, in tracking them because police weren't notified right away.
The St. Louis Police Department confirmed that they weren't notified of the escapes until about 6 a.m. Wednesday. Stubblefield said that delay is yet another misstep in how things were handled. The jail staff didn't call Stubblefield until 5:30 a.m., and he asked if police had been alerted and the staffers said no.
Wallace's defense attorney, Katrina Jones, filed a motion in October asking a judge to keep the defendant in the juvenile unit at MSI. Typically prisoners are moved to the more secure Justice Center when they turn 17.
Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty agreed in an order that read:
"The St. Louis City Department of Corrections maintains a housing unit for certified juveniles and has no objection to the juvenile remaining housed in that unit where he will be isolated from the adult defendants and will receive educational services."
Gray's attorney, Thomas Yarbrough, filed a similar motion and it was granted Feb. 19.
Gray was scheduled to be in court Monday. The attorneys expected to use the hearing to pick a trial date, which was tentatively set for Sept. 20.
Gray was scheduled to plead guilty Feb. 8, but changed his mind at the last minute, according to the court file.
Yarbrough told the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday that Gray was going back-and-forth on the decision to plead guilty, knowing he could face 18 year to 30 years in prison. "His mental state was pretty common for any 16, 17-year-old. He was very fearful, intimidated by the situation," Yarbrough said in an interview.
Yarbrough said Gray asked to be kept at the medium-security Workhouse where he felt more comfortable. He'd probably heard stories about the Justice Center and was fearful to switch, he added.
Wallace was scheduled for trial Aug. 2 in Moriarty's courtroom. His trial had been delayed when the prosecutor assigned to the case left the office. The case was shuffled between two more attorneys to balance the workload.
Wallace filed a request for a speedy trial in April. On June 10, his attorney argued for a reduction in his $200,000 bond. It was denied.
Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 1-866-371-TIPS.