• 8th inmate to escape Gaston County prison in past 2 years recaptured

    By: Dave Faherty

    Updated:

    GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - Gaston County prison officials said they have found and arrested an inmate who was reported missing Sunday night.

    Officials at the Gaston Correctional Center said Thomas Philbeck, 24, was missing when they performed their 9 p.m. bed check.

    Philbeck scaled a 7-foot fence and most likely got a ride at a park, officials said.

    Thomas Philbeck
    Thomas Philbeck
    Thomas Philbeck

    Philbeck, who was arrested Monday morning, was behind bars for larceny and breaking and entering.

    Philbeck was due to get out of prison in three months and was caught at his grandfather’s home a few miles away.

    He is the eighth prisoner to escape from the Dallas facility in the last two years and the fourth in 2018. 

    [Residents question security after 3rd inmate escapes Gaston Correctional Center this year]

    Thomas Walker walked out of the prison where he was serving the last few months of a 2014 larceny conviction in March. He turned himself in less than 24 hours after his escape. The offense didn’t affect his release date and he left the prison system on June 27.

    [Inmate reported missing in Gaston County back in custody]

    Some inmates are serving life sentences at the minimum security facility. Dozens are on work release programs.

    David Woods stole a Lowell city truck while on work detail for the City of Lowell in April. He crashed the truck on Interstate 85 and died from his injuries. Officials later said Woods, who was serving a life sentence for a 1995 murder conviction, had a suicide note on him at the time of the crash.

    [Convicted murderer killed in crash was assigned to prison work detail in neighborhoods]

    Montavious Miller, 34, went missing in May. He was serving an eight-year sentence for being a habitual felon and was scheduled for release in 2021. Miller was later apprehended. He currently resides in Raleigh’s Central Prison. His projected release is now February 2022.

    [Gaston County inmate back in custody after escaping]

    Department of Corrections officials said there are changes underway.

    "Eight over a period of time it definitely is a lot of escapes,” said David Mitchell, regional director for North Carolina Department of Public Safety. “We have to weigh those out -- when half of those escapes happen, when they're already outside the fence. Half of the offenders at this prison go outside the fence on a daily basis."

    "I think that this needs to be a solution sought by the state,” Gaston County Commission chairman Chad Brown said.

    I think they need to, at least, figure out some type of system or what their checks and balances are to keep them."

    Prison officials said the fences will be raised from 7 to 12 feet.   

    There are 242 inmates at the facility, but there are only four to six prison workers there at a time.

    Philbeck was due to get out of prison in three months and was caught at his grandfather’s home a few miles away. 

    "They're low-sentence guys, typically,” Mitchell said. “Out of the eight we discussed, seven live in the area. One that escaped lives two miles down the road."

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