Inmate escapes while taking out trash, recaptured after getting stuck in mud

TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. — Deputies said an inmate who escaped from the Alexander County Detention Center on Thursday evening was arrested in Iredell County early Friday morning.

Inmate Jason Mullen, 33, told Channel 9's Dave Faherty that he took off because his daughter is sick and he apologizes.

"It was probably not the smartest thing I ever chose to do," Mullen said. "I already told him, I apologize and that I'm sorry. It wasn't his fault."

According to the Alexander County Sheriff's Office, Mullen was helping take out the trash with two other inmates and a detention officer as part of the inmate work program when he took off running toward Catawba Valley Community College.

Deputies said the inmate stole a truck that was left in the parking lot of the school with the keys in the ignition.

Law enforcement reportedly found Mullen in a muddy field on Highway 90 East near a solar panel farm in Hiddenite and discovered the stolen truck was stuck in the mud. Deputies said that when they approached, Mullen was attempting to free the truck, but was unsuccesssful, so he left it behind and ran.

The Alexander County and Iredell County sheriff's offices used K-9s and a drone to track the escapee, but were unable to find him.

Deputies then gave an Iredell County Sheriff's Office bloodhound an item with Mullen's scent and the dog was able to track him to an abandoned mobile home off Highway 90 east.

(Deputy J. Hodges and Marley)

Authorities said Mullen was arrested around 4:30 a.m. and charged with one count of escape from a detention facility and felony larceny of a vehicle.

At the time of the escape, Mullen and other inmates were being supervised as part of a work program, which allows inmates to wash patrol cars and clean the jail.

Sheriff Chris Bowman said he and his deputies will re-evaluate the work program to see if changes need to be made.

Mullen is being held under a $100,000 bond and is expected to appear in court Tuesday.

Many families in the area are now questioning the safety of the jail's inmate work program.

"Having a child, after what happened last night, it makes me really nervous. It's a scary thought they could get away like that," mother Jessica Phillips said.

Bowman said the majority of the inmates work 12-hour shifts inside the jail and only three are allowed at one time to do chores outside under the watch of a deputy.

Without the program, inmates would spend 21 hours locked in their cells and more employees would have to be hired to clean and maintain the jail.

"I feel like it saves taxpayer money and we don't have to have a cleaning crew come in," Bowman said. "I just think it works. I do hate that this happened last night."

Bowman said he will be making some changes on who is eligible for the work program.

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